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Conducting focus groups (Qualitative data collection)

Conducting focus groups (Qualitative data collection)
How to achieve high quality focus groups.

*Course re-scheduled from 31 October


Focus groups are an increasingly popular qualitative research method but it is vital to understand the kind of data they generate so that they are chosen wisely. As a method they require considerable questioning and facilitation skills. This highly interactive course shows how to improve the quality of focus group research by achieving optimum group composition, and ensuring a lively and fully participative discussion. The course aims to give participants a clear understanding of when and how to use focus groups as a qualitative method and to provide first-hand experience of one of the key roles: facilitator, moderator, and group member. We also consider how to modify the style and approach depending on the sensitivity of the topic and the nature of the participants.


Course objectives


By the end of the course participants should:

  • Have a clear understanding of when to use focus groups as a qualitative method
  • Be equipped to independently design, undertake, and run qualitative focus group discussions
  • Understand the importance of group composition and its impact on group dynamics
  • Acquire techniques for involving participants, keeping the discussion on track and ensuring sufficient depth of coverage
  • Have practical knowledge of running focus groups or taking part in them
  • Know how to evaluate the running of good quality focus groups




  • the nature of focus groups and focus group data
  • using focus groups appropriately
  • discussion guides and focusing exercises
  • questioning and moderating skills
  • the composition of focus groups
  • practicalities of recruiting and running groups: venues, recording, transcription
  • evaluating the quality of focus groups
  • focus groups with vulnerable adults and children


Who will benefit


The course will benefit those who intend to use qualitative focus groups or group discussions as the main method in a project or as a supplementary method. It is also designed to support those who need to know what to look for when commissioning good quality research. It is suitable for participants with very little or no experience of interviewing or focus groups but can also be of benefit for those wishing to brush-up their skills or simply acquire new skills without a specific project in mind. Participants come from diverse academic and policy backgrounds and very diverse topic areas. Some knowledge of qualitative research or attendance on the Designing a qualitative study is advisable.


Course tutor


Dr Karen Lumsden is currently Assistant Professor in Criminology at the University of Nottingham and has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Aberdeen. She has over 15 years experience teaching qualitative research methods at postgraduate level and to academics and practitioners. This includes courses at the University of Aberdeen, University of Glasgow, University of Essex and Kingston University, and for the Social Research Association. Karen has also designed and delivered social research methods training for police officers and staff via the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC) and for research consultancies. She has authored a number of academic books and journal articles in the areas of sociology and criminology, and on qualitative research methods. Karen is also Chair of the Editorial Board of Sociological Research Online.


  This course contributes 6 hours to the MRS CPD programme

Cancellation policy: Full refund if cancelled 21 days or more from the course date.  No refund if cancelled 20 days or fewer from the course date.

11/18/2019 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM
GMT Standard Time
Edinburgh Training Centre EDINBURGH UNITED KINGDOM

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