Running focus groups online and offline

Researching Youth – Methods Seminar Series

The seventh session in our Researching Youth Seminar series hosted by the British Educational Research Association (BERA) special interest group for Youth Studies & Informal Education, in collaboration with the British Sociological Association (BSA)’s Youth Study Group and the Political Studies Association (PSA)’s Young People’s Politics Specialist Group.

This session will explore the ways that researchers have ‘pivoted’ their focus group methods to undertake focus groups online during the pandemic. We discuss the challenges, opportunities and learnings from focus groups conducted online. The speakers for this event will include:

Benjamin Hanckel will share his reflections of undertaking online focus groups with young people across two projects since the pandemic began. This includes a national project with young people who are sexuality and gender diverse, as well as an urban project examining young people’s experiences of supporting friends experiencing mental health distress. This presentation will reflect on the focus groups undertaken across these two projects, and the benefits and challenges of conducting focus groups online, particularly around issues that are stigmatised and marginalised in mainstream society. The paper will explore the ways focus groups sought to centre young people’s agency and comfort when participating in focus groups. In doing so the presentation will consider the ways online focus groups can provide spaces for increased agency in the research fieldwork undertaken. The paper asks to what extent this created safe(r) spaces for focus group participants to participate and share their experiences, what measures enabled and constrained this, and what was afforded by using online platforms vis-à-vis offline focus groups.

Katherine Smith will share reflections on doing focus group methods with young people online during the pandemic, and the various impacts this had in (in)equalities in young people’s engagement. Reflecting upon the work of the ‘Making Votes at 16 Work in Wales’ project with 16- and 17-year-olds across Wales in 2021, this paper reflects upon the methodological benefits and challenges associated with conducting online focus groups, with a particular emphasis upon the impact of online vs. face-to-face focus groups upon different inequalities in research participation.

Following these short presentations, there will be space for event attendees to share questions, ideas and their own approaches to talking and listening to young people.

Please register here: 

Free of charge for BERA, PSA and BSA members. PSA members need to input the promotional code ‘PSA2022’ at checkout.