Workshop and discussion exercises

Practice with these exercises to prepare for your seminars and wider research.

1. Working in small groups, choose a topic that you could explore through focus group research. Such topics might include questions about public attitudes (e.g. attitudes towards immigration), how audiences interpret media (e.g. responses to news content; the impact of violence in the media), or the study of meanings and beliefs (e.g. perceptions of national identity). Having agreed your topic of study, discuss and note down your responses to the following questions:
(a) How would you select groups to participate in the study? How does the selection of these groups relate to your research problem?
(b) Are there any methodological or ethical problems you might encounter in researching this topic via group discussions?
(c) How would you set this up online?
(d) Could this study be extended by using other research methods?

2. This exercise involves running a focus group to discover students’ experience of alcohol and drug use at university. One person should act as moderator and four to ten others should act as members of the focus group. You may wish to have two observers who can take notes on the interaction and provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the exercise in producing relevant data. The moderator should use the following questions to stimulate discussion and can also make other interventions in the discussion where appropriate:
(a) Can we begin by talking about how people socialise at your university? What kinds of after-hours events and activities are on offer, and which do you take part in?
(b) How much of a role does alcohol play in socialising at university?
(c) Do you have some thoughts on how your university is doing regarding alcohol and drug problems with students? Can you describe to me what you know about this?
(d) Do you think drugs or alcohol are easily available to students?
(e) What kinds of personal rules do you have about alcohol and drugs?
(f) If you ever had a problem with alcohol or drugs, who would you approach to talk about it? Can you explain your thoughts about your choice of this individual?
(g) Can you talk about your thoughts on how alcohol and drugs affect a person? What about friendship groups or families?

3. Work in a group of 6–8. One person to act as moderator; 3–4 to act as focus group participants; the rest to act as observers. Focus group participants should fill in the student feedback questionnaire in relation to one of the courses they have experienced. Focus group should discuss:
(a) Is this a good way to find out about what students think about a course? Are there better ways?
(b) What other experiences do participants have of providing student feedback on courses?
(c) Do participants think it has led to / could lead to improvements in course design and delivery?
(d) Is this a good way of evaluating the quality of a course / making a course better?
(e) What are the pros and cons of using student feedback to change courses?

Consider: what went well and what went badly? How could the focus group be improved?