Introduction to Focus Groups



Organised by:

Social Research Association


Dr Karen Lumsden


Entry (no or almost no prior knowledge)


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

video conference logo

Venue: Online


This live online course helps participants to improve the quality of their focus groups and moderation skills. (Foundation level). It runs in one day and uses Zoom software.



Focus groups are a popular qualitative research method which allow us to explore a variety of views and experiences from participants. They produce a particular type of qualitative data via the interaction which participations have with each other and the activities they engage in. As a qualitative method, focus groups also rely on effective moderation and facilitation skills. This online interactive course helps participants to improve the quality of their focus groups and moderation skills, and provides strategies to help them generate a participative and effective focus group 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: moderator and group member. We also consider research ethics, how to modify the style and approach depending on the sensitivity of the topic, and the nature of the participants. Although the focus is primarily on in person focus groups, participants will consider strategies for conducting focus groups in both in-person and online settings, and the different challenges these focus group styles present for moderators. Through practical hands-on activities on designing focus group schedules and moderation, participants will gain skills in focus group design, questioning, moderation, and facilitation.

By the end of the course, participants will have knowledge of focus groups as a qualitative method and the type of data they generate. They will have knowledge of the role of the moderator and how to effectively design, plan and conduct a focus group. They will also have an awareness of the different ways in which focus groups can be facilitated (i.e. in-person, online, text) although the focus of this course will be on designing and facilitating in-person focus groups.


Learning outcomes

  • Have an understanding of the principles of focus groups and when we should use them;
  • Be able to independently design and moderate focus group discussions;
  • Understand the importance of group composition and its impact on group dynamics;
  • Be aware of contexts when in-person or online focus groups are appropriate;
  • Be aware of effective moderation skills including: strategies for building rapport and trust, involving participants in group discussions, and dealing with difficult participants;
  • Be aware of the ethical challenges specific to focus groups as research method;
  • Practical exercises in focus group schedule and question design, and moderation, will enable participants to be able to experience and reflect on designing and moderating a focus group.



  • The principles of focus groups;
  • The nature of focus group data;
  • When we should use focus groups in qualitative research;
  • Designing focus group discussion guides;
  • Questioning and moderating skills;
  • Composition of focus groups;
  • Practicalities of designing and facilitating group discussions;
  • In-person and online focus groups and their different challenges;
  • Ethics in focus groups.


Who will benefit

This foundation course will be of value to researchers who are new to qualitative research or the focus group method. It will also be beneficial for researchers who wish to update their skills in focus groups. It provides a basic overview of the principles of focus groups, and also more in-depth knowledge of how to plan, design, moderate and facilitate focus groups. It is also designed to support those who need to know what to look for when commissioning good quality research. Participants come from diverse academic and policy backgrounds and very diverse topic areas. Some knowledge of qualitative research or attendance on an introductory qualitative methods course is advisable.


Course tutor

Dr Karen Lumsden is a social scientist, consultant and trainer in qualitative methods with over 15 years’ experience delivering qualitative methods training to social researchers, academics and doctoral students. This includes courses at universities such as: Aberdeen, Glasgow, Bristol, Cardiff, Kingston, and Loughborough. She has also designed and delivered social research methods training for a range of clients including police organisations, local authorities, charities, and research consultancies.

Karen has authored a number of academic books and journal articles in 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 a sociologist at the University of Aberdeen, and previously held academic posts at institutions including i.e. the University of Nottingham and Loughborough University. For more information visit:


£220.00 SRA members pay £165.00

Website and registration:




Focus groups

Related publications and presentations:

Focus groups

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