Conducting Online Focus Groups



Organised by:

Social Research Association


Dr Karen Lumsden


Entry (no or almost no prior knowledge)


Lindsay Adams
E: (preferred method of contact)
T: 0204 551 3864

Venue: Online


This live online course explores the principles and benefits of online focus groups (Foundation level).  It runs in one day and uses Zoom software 

This course provides participants with an in-depth introduction to successfully conducting and facilitating online focus groups. Traditionally, online focus groups have tended to be viewed as inferior to the traditional physical ‘face-to-face’ focus group. However, online focus groups can vary in form and offer us a valuable means by which to conduct social research with a range of diverse groups via various information and communication technologies. The course covers the principles and benefits of online focus groups, and the challenges which online communication poses when conducting focus groups virtually. We cover how to design, conduct and facilitate a synchronous online focus group using voice and video technologies. Participants are provided with guidance and the opportunity to practice running an online focus group, including strategies for participation and ethical considerations.

Learning outcomes

  • To have knowledge of the original principles of traditional face-to-face focus groups.
  • To understand how these principles change in the context of online communication and online data collection. • To be aware of the pros and cons of running an online focus group.
  • To be aware of the different types of online focus groups including synchronous and asynchronous and be able to select the most appropriate in various scenarios.
  • To be able to design and facilitate an online focus group via a practical activity.
  • Sensitivity to the ethics of online data collection.


  • The principles and benefits of online focus groups
  • The nature of online communication
  • Challenges of conducting online focus groups
  • Synchronous online focus groups and voice and video technologies
  • Designing and running your online focus groups
  • Strategies for encouraging participation
  • Ethics of online data collection
  • Other types of online focus groups: discussion forums, email distribution lists

Who will benefit

This introductory course will benefit researchers who are new to qualitative research methods and those who already have a basic understanding of qualitative research methods but are new to conducting focus groups in online settings.

Course tutor
Dr Karen Lumsden has over 15 years’ experience teaching qualitative research methods to social researchers, academics and doctoral students. This includes courses at universities such as: Aberdeen, Glasgow, Bristol, Cardiff, Kingston, and Loughborough. She has delivered training for the Social Research Association since 2018. Karen has also designed and delivered social research methods training for police constabularies and research consultancies. 
Karen has authored a number of academic books and journal articles in the areas of sociology and criminology, and on qualitative research methods including on reflexivity, autoethnography, and digital qualitative methods. She is currently on the Editorial Board of Qualitative Research and was previously Chair of the Editorial Board of Sociological Research Online. Karen is currently Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Aberdeen. She has held a number of academic posts including Assistant Professor in Criminology at the University of Nottingham and Associate Professor at the University of Leicester.


£165 for SRA members, £220 for non-members.

Website and registration:




Focus groups

Related publications and presentations:

Focus groups

Back to archive...