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Applications of Focus Groups

Member rate £492.50
Non-Member rate £985.00

Save £45 Loyalty discount applied automatically*
Save 5% on each additional course booked

*If you attended our Methods School in July/August 2023 or February 2024.

Course Dates and Times

Date: Monday 22 – Friday 26 July 2024
Time: 11:00 – 14:00 CEST

Karen Lumsden

University of Aberdeen

This course will provide you with a highly interactive online teaching and learning environment, using state of the art online pedagogical tools. It is designed for a demanding audience (researchers, professional analysts, advanced students) and capped at a maximum of 16 participants so that the teaching team can cater to the specific needs of everyone.

Purpose of the Course

By the end of the course you will:

  • be aware of the main principles of focus groups;
  • have a clear understanding of when to use focus groups in research;
  • 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 the various challenges and strategies involved in running focus groups in-person and online;
  • develop strategies for building rapport and trust, involving participants in group discussions, keeping the discussion on track, and ensuring sufficient depth of coverage;
  • have practical knowledge of moderating focus groups and participating in them.
ECTS Credits

3 ECTS credits awarded for engaging fully in class activities.
1 additional ECTS credit awarded for completing a post-course assignment.

Instructor Bio

Karen Lumsden is a sociologist and criminologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. 

She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Aberdeen and has held a number of academic posts including Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, Associate Professor at the University of Leicester, and Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University.

She has over 15 years of experience teaching qualitative research methods to doctoral students, academics, practitioners and social researchers. This includes courses at the Universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow, Essex, Kingston, Bristol, Cardiff, Kings College London, Bournemouth, and for the Social Research Association.

Karen has also designed and delivered research methods training for police officers and staff via the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC) and for research consultancies. She has written books, edited collections, and journal articles on qualitative research methods and is currently on the Editorial Board of the Qualitative Research journal. Her research expertise is in areas including policing, victims and cyber-crime.


Key topics covered

Focus groups are a popular qualitative research method. They generate different data to other qualitative methods such as interviews. In focus groups we rely on the interactions and communications which occur between the different participants as a means of generating rich and insightful data on an issue or topic.

Therefore, focus groups require considerable questioning and moderating skills. The moderator plays a key role in guiding the discussion.

This interactive course will help to improve the quality of your focus group research by achieving an appropriate group composition and ensuring a lively and participative discussion. It provides you with a clear understanding of how to use focus groups as a qualitative method. It provides first-hand experience of the roles of moderator and focus group participant. It also covers the different challenges posed when designing and moderating focus groups in both face-to-face and online contexts, and strategies for building trust and rapport with participants.

Topics covered include:

  • 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 and exercises;
  • questioning and moderating skills;
  • the composition of focus groups;
  • practicalities of facilitating group discussions;
  • in-person and online focus groups and their different challenges;
  • ethics and reflexivity in focus groups.

How the course will work online

Live sessions will be held daily for three hours on a video meeting platform, allowing you to interact with both the instructor and other participants in real-time. This consists of a combination of lecture presentations and group practical activities. The instructor will also conduct live Q&A sessions and offer designated office hours for one-to-one consultations.

Prerequisite Knowledge

Prior training in the foundations and principles of qualitative methods is recommended, but not required. 

Learning commitment

As a participant in this course, you will engage in a variety of learning activities designed to deepen your understanding and mastery of the subject matter. While the cornerstone of your learning experience will be the daily live teaching sessions, which total three hours each day across the five days of the course, your learning commitment extends beyond these sessions.

Upon payment and registration for the course, you will gain access to our Learning Management System (LMS) approximately two weeks before the course start date. Here, you will have access to course materials such as pre-course readings. The time commitment required to familiarise yourself with the content and complete any pre-course tasks is estimated to be approximately 20 hours per week leading up to the start date.

During the course week, you are expected to dedicate approximately two-three hours per day to prepare and work on assignments.

Each course offers the opportunity to be awarded three ECTS credits. Should you wish to earn a 4th credit, you will need to complete a post-course assignment, which will involve approximately 25 hours of work.

This comprehensive approach ensures that you not only attend the live sessions but also engage deeply with the course material, participate actively, and complete assessments to solidify your learning.


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc.). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.