MA Political Science - Democracy and Elections (Research Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Focus Groups

Unit code POLI60421
Credit rating 5
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Focus groups are a very commonly used qualitative tool in academic and non-academic research.  But are they a unique technique with distinct advantages, or an over-used, quick and dirty way to gather data? How specific is the method, and can we tell a good focus group from a bad one?   This course introduces the benefits and constraints of using the focus group method in social research. The module outlines the increasing use of focus groups in a wide variety of research settings.  This is a skills-focused module which looks at how to run focus groups, and offers a ‘taster’ experience of designing, running and participating in your own focus groups.  We look at methodological and practical issues such as group construction, size, and composition, facilitation and moderation, recording, data analysis, informed consent, recruitment, incentives, venues.  The course will consist of pre-recorded lecture material, and online workshop components.  This module is suitable for students at all levels of experience, from experienced practitioners to those with little or no experience of focus groups.aa

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have an understanding of the appropriate use of focus groups as a qualitative resource in the social sciences, and be able to critically evaluate their limits and potential.  As part of the course assignment, students will have the opportunity to plan, carry out, and analyse a focus group and reflect on the appropriateness of the method for their own research interests. The course will provide students with the applied skills to use focus groups as a primary research resource. 


Teaching and learning methods

four x 1.5 hours remote teaching

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Recommended reading

Bryman, A. (2008) Social research methods, 3rd edition, Oxford: OUP. (Chapter 19  ‘Focus groups’)

Cronin, A. (2008) ‘Focus groups’, in N. Gilbert (ed.) Researching social life, 3rd edition, London: Sage Publications Ltd.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 44

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
liz richardson Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Non-assessed/ungraded formative exercise: preparing a focus group


Graded assignment: 1500 word essay critically reflecting on the process of organising, carrying out and analysing the focus group. Deadline for submission of assignment: - Thursday 7 January 2021.



Friday 13 November


Friday 20 November


Friday 4 December


Friday 11 December
















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