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PHDINN905 Negotiation, Production and Interpretation of Qualitative Data in Innovation Studies

Course description for academic year 2020/2021

Contents and structure

Contested concepts of ‘truth’ - seeing things differently for innovation

The course focuses on qualitative methods and alternative epistemologies for the generation and interpretation of Qualitative Data of relevance to innovation research. An aim of the course is to increase knowledge on how qualitative methods can be applied in practical research combining ‘exploring’ and ‘exploiting’ approaches to innovation. Accordingly, the course brings together insights from PHDINN903 and PHDINN904, but it is not a prerequisite that participants have completed the two courses in advance. Discussions centre on how to justify, design and carry out qualitative research, acknowledging that data are not merely collected but, rather, produced, negotiated and interpreted in various kinds of co-creative settings between researcher(s) and informant(s). In studies of innovation, there is also a question of how innovation is approached methodologically and empirically and how innovation can be ‘observed’ or ‘framed’ epistemologically. Such discussions are intended to be at the heart of journeys toward innovation and creativity, avoiding the traps of a-priori thinking and normative methodological constraints, whilst acknowledging the messiness and complexity of knowledge and meaning. Participants are furthermore equipped to reflect upon these processes and choice(s) of qualitative method(s) of relevance for their individual research projects. Whilst we will at times problematise the metanarratives of claimed ‘truth’ derived from statistical analysis and other aspects of quantitative research, we also consider the benefits of combined methods provided. The course will provide critical reflections on production and interpretation of knowledge from qualitative data and the strengths and weaknesses of related methods (e.g. interviews, conversations, participatory observations, semiotics, critical discourse analysis, action research etc.). Students and lecturers will participate in a co-creative process of sharing ideas and learning, providing a bridge from established and ‘secure’ methods to relativism and post-structural subjectivity and back. Throughout, the value of all of these approaches will be assessed, respected and applied.


The course provides advanced critical consideration aspects of qualitative research. Issues pertaining to qualitative methods are addressed, and students are requested to contextualise their own research projects throughout the course. Unlike PHDINN904, the aim here is to reflect upon meanings, fluidity and co-creation in research and how this connects to production and interpretation of qualitative data in innovation studies. Co-creation of data in qualitative research acknowledges both the research process and research output and is highly relevant for research focusing on ‘exploration’ and ‘exploitation’ regarding innovation. In addition, students will reflect on a range of different methods applied in innovation studies, including for example interviews, conversations, observant participation and critical discourse analysis.

Course Structure

The course is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, colloquia and workshops. The course is organised as an intensive, four-day event. Submission of essays is to be done within four weeks after teaching is finalised.

Module 1 - justification and defence of qualitative methods in the interpretation of data and production of knowledge in innovation studies

Lectures: 8 h - Seminars: 4 h - Workshop: 8 h.

In this module different interpretive research approaches (e.g. interviews, focused conversations, observant participation, ethnographic, ethnomethodological and etnographic approaches and online discussions) applicable to co-creation is presented and discussed. Ideas around co-creation confront the inherently normative/’objective’ perspectives in innovation, by giving the researcher an open, interactive, and facilitational role. Accordingly, epistemological and ethical challenges are touched upon with a particular focus on implications of co-creation for the production as well as the interpretation of data. In the seminars, students critically reflect on the production of credible data through co-creation and later how the data change from interaction to text via application of discourse analyses. Normative, ethical and practical issues such as access, research privacy and intersubjectivity are considered. In addition, students are given an introduction to software tools for managing and analysing qualitative data (e.g. the Nvivo software). The workshop brings the lectures and seminars together, where students and staff discuss topics from Module 1 in light of how qualitative methodologies  can be applied in innovation studies and in the students’ projects.

Module 2 - Considerations and approaches to qualitative methods in innovation studies

Lectures: 6 h - Seminars: 8 h - Colloquium: 6 h.

This largely student-led second module reflects on qualitative methods in innovation research. Lectures in the module paint a broad picture of how innovation research might be approached, how social phenomena are negotiated, stimulated and ‘captured’ via interpretive inquiry. For example: is data static; fixed - or does it take on its own life and fluidity dependent upon the world view of the audience? In the seminars, students will present their research questions, reflecting on research design and the applicability of various methodological approaches. Colloquia will be arranged where students are to present critical reviews of existing research on innovation (linked to their own field of study), and discuss the ‘goodness of fit’ of methods used and their applicability. Students will also consider issues of credibility for their work, in critical consideration of claims to direct causality.

Learning Outcome

Upon completion of the course, the candidate should be able to:


  • Understand and consider the epistemological challenges, differences and world-views which aspects of qualitative research might confront
  • Critically assess the status, particularity and value of knowledge produced via qualitative methods and why this has specific relevance in innovation studies
  • Reflect upon qualitative methods applied to produce and interpret data in innovation studies
  • Explain what qualitative methods means and how it can be applied in innovation research;
  • Reflect upon the place of the researcher and of the subject(s) in the production and interpretation of qualitative data in innovation research;
  • Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of co-creation and discourse analysis in qualitative based innovation research;
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of how methods such as interviews, conversations, participatory observation and critical discourse analysis link to the production and interpretation of qualitative data in innovation studies


  • Formulate a qualitative research design relevant to innovation research and the candidate’s individually research projects;
  • Recognize and account for methodical and practical challenges of qualitative based research on innovation studies;
  • Debate the implications of Production and Interpretation of Qualitative Data for practical research linked to the candidate’s PhD project

General competence

  • Understand the qualitative methodological applications in innovation research
  • Communicate differences and similarities between qualitative methods and how this is reflected in the production and interpretation of knowledge for innovation studies