Conducting Focus Groups



Organised by:

Social Research Association


Professor Karen O'Reilly


Entry (no or almost no prior knowledge)


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


View in Google Maps  (N1 9RL)


National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Society Building
8 All Saints Street


This course explores how to achieve high quality focus groups. (Foundation Level) 


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

Karen O'Reilly is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University, and an affiliate of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. She has taught ethnographic and qualitative methods for over 20 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 at universities 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.


£270.00 SRA members pay £202.50

Website and registration:


Greater London


Focus groups

Related publications and presentations:

Focus groups

Back to archive...