Teaching Sociology Students to Become Qualitative-Researchers Using an Internship Model of Learner-Support


  • Martin Tolich University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Bonnie Scarth University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Kerry Shephard University of Otago, New Zealand




This article examines the experiences of final year undergraduate sociology students enrolled in an internship course where they researched a local community project, mostly in small groups, for a client. A sociology lecturer supervised their projects. Course-related outcomes were assessed using conventional university procedures but a research process was used to evaluate the extent to which the cohort developed characteristics, or identities, of qualitative researchers.  The research demonstrates that the students made many false starts but through processes of trial and error, and with effective support, they considered that they had increased their confidence and became capable of planning and carrying out research. For the students, this internship was not just another class.  Their stories reflect on their abilities as researchers and adoption of attitudes towards appropriate research approaches, processes and outputs typical of professional qualitative researchers.

Author Biographies

Martin Tolich, University of Otago, New Zealand

Associate Professor

Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work

Bonnie Scarth, University of Otago, New Zealand

Department of Anthropology and Archaeology

Kerry Shephard, University of Otago, New Zealand

Professor of Higher Education Development

Higher Education Development Centre