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Enhancing the potential of Focus Groups

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Focus groups are used regularly in qualitative research, but sometimes under-used in that the potential of this method is under-estimated. Focus groups can be much more than lightly structured group interviews, instead creating vibrant spaces for dialogue in contentious fields, allowing participants not just to articulate what they know, but also to know more critically through the communal exchange. The emphasis in this course is on how focus groups can be used as a constructive method particularly well suited to inclusive/participatory/transformative research designs.


The day will include aspects of how to organise an effective focus group, but the primary focus will be on going beyond traditional focus groups by incorporating enriching features such as video stimulus, communal activities and repeated focus groups in iterative cycles. The tutor will draw on her experience of facilitating different kinds of focus groups for different purposes and participants.


This one-day course provides opportunities to share practical experiences, distil insights, and learn about new possibilities. There will be activities to support skill development and prompt discussion. Course participants will be offered templates for planning focus groups. We will also address the types of analysis that make best use of focus group data.


The tutor draws on her own experience in facilitating focus groups to present options including:

  • using photo and video stimulus for recall, reflection and dialogue
  • using activities within focus groups
  • iterative use of focus groups in dialogic cycles


We will discuss such issues as:

  • who is control of a focus group and why
  • homogeneity vs diversity among focus group participants
  • establishing rapport and managing group dynamics
  • suitable methods of analysis for focus group data


By the end of the course participants will:

  • appreciate what focus groups can offer compared with interview methods
  • understand how focus groups fit with the ethos of inclusive/participatory/transformative research
  • be familiar with a range of options for enriching focus groups
  • have gained some practical knowledge and skills


This intermediate level course is relevant to anyone wanting to explore the potential of focus groups as a social science research method. It is accessible for all researchers and particularly useful for those researching in professional contexts such as education, social work and health or researchers working with marginalised groups including children and disabled people.

Course Code


Course Date

26th April 2018

Places Available


Course Leader

Course Description

Preparatory Reading:

Optional, course participants might like to dip into:


Barbour, R.A. & Morgan, D.L. (2017) A New Era in Focus Group Research: Challenges, innovation and practice. Palgrave.


Nind, M. & Vinha, H. (2016) Creative interactions with data: Using visual and metaphorical devices in repeated focus groups, Qualitative Research, 16(1), 9-26. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/citedby/10.1177/1468794114557993 (open access)

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