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Conducting focus groups (Qualitative data collection

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


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 Line Nyhagen is a Reader (Associate Professor) of Sociology at Loughborough University. She has researched a broad range of social science topics for over twenty years, using qualitative interviewing, focus groups and survey questionnaires. Having conducted research in multiple contexts, including various countries and different social groups, she is particularly attuned to the importance of designing research in ways that responds to the needs of specific contexts - be they organisations, groups or individuals. She is a member of the ESRC Peer Review College (since 2015), and from 2007 to 2012 she was a member of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Commissioning Panel. Line has taught research methods in higher education contexts for more than ten years. In 2018 she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Loughborough University, and in 2016 she won the Loughborough University’s Research-Informed Teaching Award, presented by the Vice-Chancellor. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).


  This course contributes 6 hours to the MRS CPD programme

1/31/2020 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM
GMT Standard Time
Conference Centre At Nottingham Trent University Burton Street NOTTINGHAM NG1 4BU UNITED KINGDOM
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