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, and cover the use of some creative techniques for generating discussion.
By the end of the course participants should:
Have a clear understanding of when to use focus groups as a qualitative methods
- 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 creative 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 group
- 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
- creative techniques, and 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 Foundations of Qualitative Research course is advisable.
Karen O'Reilly is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University and a Freelance Researcher. She has taught ethnographic and qualitative methods for over 25 years, including the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Collection and Analysis, the Swiss Summer School in Social Science Methods, in Lugano; at the Universities of Aberdeen, Essex, Loughborough and Oxford; and in Germany, Norway and Hong Kong. Her experience also includes being a Member of the Advisory Board of the NCRM biannual Research Methods Festival 2011-2012; and a member of the ESRC Peer Review College 2012 – 2016.
Karen is a highly experienced ethnographer whose many publications include two widely cited books on ethnography: Ethnographic Methods (Routledge, 2nd ed. 2012) and Key Concepts in Ethnography (Sage, 2009). She has also been instrumental in the design and evaluation of Masters level Research Methods courses and programmes in a number of universities. Karen provides short courses for the SRA on a regular basis.
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.