Short courses


Qualitative Research Methods in Health

  • 10am - 1pm each day
  • 10 weeks


This course aims to equip you with the knowledge and skills to understand, design and conduct high quality qualitative research.

The course will help you:

  • gain a clear understanding of the principles of qualitative research
  • practise skills including interviewing, running a focus group, data analysis, and developing and presenting a research protocol

This course will be delivered online over 10 Thursday mornings from 3 October to 12 December.

This course is run by researchers from the UCL Centre for Excellence in Qualitative Research, within the Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health (PCPH).

Who it's for

This course is for: 

  • Master's level students, PhD students and research staff who need to design and conduct a qualitative study
  • those who wish to know how to assess the quality of qualitative research (e.g. funders, journal editors, ethical committee members etc.)

You don't need to have any previous experience of qualitative research, but you will need to do some preparation before each session.

Course content

1: Understanding qualitative research methods (3 and 10 October 2024)

Lead: Julia Bailey and Tom Witney

This workshop will help you understand the basis on which qualitative methodology is selected as a research approach.


  • learn about the philosophical debates around qualitative research
  • contrast qualitative and quantitative approaches
  • discuss the place of qualitative research in health and medicine

You'll also critique a published paper of a qualitative study. This will help you reflect on a completed study and consider not only the methodological approach and selection of methods, but also practical aspects such as sampling, what counts as data, the position of the researcher, data analysis, and application of findings.

Learning objectives

By the end of this workshop you'll be able to:

  • describe key features of qualitative research
  • explain the rationale for key features of qualitative research design 
  • know when qualitative or quantitative study designs are appropriate 
  • understand how ‘theory’ is relevant for qualitative research
2: Qualitative interviewing (17 and 24 October 2024)

Leads: Harpreet Sihre and Silvie Cooper

On this workshop you'll learn about qualitative research interviewing techniques and developing topic guides.

You'll explore structured, semi-structured and in-depth interview methods and their application, using real world examples. However, the emphasis will be on semi-structured interview techniques.

You'll also learn about and discuss:

  • the importance of different communication styles and researcher reflexivity
  • practical issues such as structuring questions, building rapport and dealing with challenging interviews

You'll be encouraged to think of an area of research around which you'll structure and produce a topic guide for use in a practical session. You'll also get the opportunity to practice your newly developed interviewing skills.

As far as possible, the workshop is tailored towards research that those attending are planning/doing.

Learning objectives

By the end of this workshop you'll be able to:

  • describe and distinguish between structured, semi-structured and 'in-depth' interviewing
  • formulate and construct a topic guide
  • apply and evaluate some key interviewing skills
3: Focus groups in qualitative research (7 and 14 November 2024)

Lead: Tom Witney and Fiona Aspinal

This workshop will introduce you to focus groups - a key qualitative research method.

You'll learn about the:

  • different stages of the research process where focus groups can be used
  • types of research questions that lend themselves to this approach
  • practicalities of sampling, convening and conducting focus groups, including issues to consider when researching sensitive topics

You'll also practise your communication and group facilitation skills.

You'll be encouraged to think of an area of research around which you'll structure and produce a topic guide for use in a practical session.

Learning objectives

By the end of this workshop you'll be able to:

  • explain when and how to use focus groups
  • design a topic guide for a focus group study
  • organise and facilitate a focus group
4: Qualitative data analysis (21 and 28 November 2024)

Leads: Nathan Davies and Fiona Stevenson

On this workshop you'll discuss a range of ways of conducting qualitative data analysis and the rationales for different approaches.

You'll be encouraged to critically reflect on how decisions made throughout research affect the type and extent of analysis possible. The importance of decisions about transcription are also stressed.

You'll consider the place of data management software in qualitative analysis. You won't be taught how to use particular software packages, but you'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using these.

You'll conduct a thematic analysis on a piece of data, and reflect on and consider the best approach for your own work.

As far as possible, the workshop is tailored towards research that those attending are planning/doing.

Please note: this workshop does not provide training in the use of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis packages

Learning objectives

By the end of this workshop you'll be able to:

  • distinguish between different types of qualitative data analysis
  • recognise the importance of decisions relating to transcribing, reflexivity, field notes, double coding and data management
  • consider various approaches to analysis
  • understand the principles and practicalities of conducting a basic thematic analysis
  • evaluate the benefits of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis for your projects
5: Designing a qualitative study (5 and 12 December 2024)

Leads: Jane Wilcock and Stephanie Kumpunen

In this interactive workshop you'll plan your own qualitative study design.

You'll work on your own and in small and large groups, with an experienced tutor. You'll also have the opportunity for one-to-one and small group discussions and advice on qualitative study design.

The first day is spent planning your study in a structured way. On the second day you'll present your study design proposal to tutors and other students in small groups, and discuss research issues arising from the proposed studies.

Learning objectives

By the end of this workshop you'll be able to:

  • write clear research questions
  • understand the principles of (and debates about) quality in qualitative research
  • plan a qualitative research study, specifying the details of how a study will be carried out
  • present a four-slide summary of your study design
  • discuss the rationale for chosen study designs

Teaching and assessment

The course is highly interactive, involving a range of teaching techniques including group work, practical tasks and discussion.

It will be run with a mixture of synchronous, online learning (e.g. presentations, small group discussions) and asynchronous learning (pre-recorded videos, readings, preparatory writing/planning).

You'll receive help designing and planning your own qualitative research project. You'll then present your design proposals and receive feedback from course tutors and peers at the end of the course.

You'll be required to do some preparation before each session (reading and/or watching videos).

How to apply

To apply for this course you’ll need to complete a short application form.

Your application will be judged on your suitability for the course and how much you're likely to benefit. Priority will be given to people who are actively planning or conducting qualitative research.

Please email qrm@ucl.ac.uk if you’d like to be added to the waiting list. When booking opens and there are spaces available for the course, you'll be emailed the application form.

Cancellation policy

Cancellations must be received in writing at least two weeks before the start of the event and will be subject to an administration charge of 20% of the course fee. Unfortunately, no refunds will be made within two weeks of the course date. Any refund will be made by UCL to you within 30 days of your cancellation and be paid to you in the same way as you paid for your order.

We reserve the right to cancel teaching if necessary and will, in such event, make a full refund of the registration fee. PCPH Events will not be liable for any additional incurred costs.

Further information

If you have any questions about the course content, please email Fiona Stevenson (f.stevenson@ucl.ac.uk) or Julia Bailey (julia.bailey@ucl.ac.uk).

For administrative queries, please contact Lynda Russell-Whitaker (qrm@ucl.ac.uk).

Course team

Julia Bailey - joint Course Director

Julia Bailey - joint Course Director

Julia is an Associate Professor at the e-Health Unit at UCL and a sexual health speciality doctor in South East London. Her research interests include sexual health, e-Health, doctor-patient interaction, science communication and social science in medicine (qualitative methodologies). View Julia’s IRIS profile for more information about her work and publications.

Fiona Stevenson - joint Course Director

Fiona Stevenson - joint Course Director

Fiona is a Professor of Medical Sociology and Co-Director of e-Health Unit at UCL. She’s currently Head of the Department of Primary Care and Population Health at UCL. Her research is broadly encompassed by the overarching theme of perceptions, communication and interactions about treatment. Her methodological expertise lies in qualitative methods, both in relation to thematic analysis of interviews and focus groups and conversation analysis of interactional data. She has expertise in conducting original research as well as implementing research findings into practice. View Fiona’s IRIS profile for more information about her work and publications.

Nathan Davies

Nathan Davies

Nathan is an Associate Professor and Alzheimer’s Society Fellow based in the Centre for Ageing Population Studies at UCL. His main research interests are in older adults, dementia, and supporting family carers. He's a qualitative researcher leading on several qualitative studies, which explore sensitive topics, including end of life care. In addition to experience of interviews, focus groups and various types of qualitative analysis, he has extensive experience of co-design, co-production and consensus-based methods. View Nathan’s IRIS profile for more information about his work and publications.

Jane Wilcock

Jane Wilcock

Jane is a Senior Research Associate in the Centre for Ageing & Population Studies, UCL. Her main research interests are in dementia, ageing, emergent technologies and trials of complex interventions in primary care and community settings. A mixed-methods researcher, Jane has experience of a variety of study designs such as RCTs, interview and focus group studies, nominal group techniques and co-design of interventions. In addition, she is a methodology expert for the NIHR Research Design Service London. View Jane’s IRIS profile for more information about her work and publications.

Silvie Cooper

Silvie Cooper

Silvie is a Lecturer (Teaching) in the Department of Applied Health Research at UCL. Her research interests include capacity building for health research, management of chronic pain, digital health, and patient education, using qualitative, mixed methods, and translational research approaches. Alongside her research, she designs and teaches on a variety of health and social science courses for undergraduates, postgraduates and professionals. Topics include research and evaluation methods, the social aspects of health and illness, and the impact of context, practice and policy on healthcare experiences. View Silvie’s IRIS profile for more information about her works and publications.

Harpreet Sihre

Harpreet Sihre

Harpreet formerly completed her PhD at the Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, where she researched the lived experiences of South Asian women with severe postnatal psychiatric illnesses using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. She then worked at the Unit of Social and Community Psychiatry on an NIHR-funded study researching accessibility and acceptability of Perinatal Mental Health Services.

Harpreet’s research interests encompass mental health, perinatal mental health, access to services and equality, diversity and inclusion, using qualitative research methods. Harpreet has taught on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including small group teaching and lecturing at the University of Birmingham and Queen Mary University. View Harpreet’s IRIS profile for more information about her work and publications.

Tom Witney

Tom Witney

Tom is a Research Fellow at the department of Primary Care and Population Health. He is a qualitative health researcher, with a particular interest in sexual health and relationship intimacy. His current work focuses on improving access to sexual health for trans and gender diverse people and supporting uptake of chlamydia retesting following a diagnosis. View Tom’s Iris profile for more information about his work and publications.

Fiona Aspinal

Fiona Aspinal

Fiona is based in the Department of Applied Health Research for the NIHR ARC North Thames as 'Senior Research Associate in Qualitative Methods Applied to Organisational Research in Health' where, as part of the ARC North Thames' Research Partnership Team, she helps to facilitate and support health and social care research with local, regional and national relevance. She is also the social care research lead for NIHR CRN North Thames.

Her areas of research interest are: Qualitative research and evaluation of complex health and social care interventions and organisations; The experience and outcomes of integrated care policy and practice for staff, service users and informal carers; Social and community health care for adults, including people with dementia; Social care research infrastructure/skills.

At UCL, in addition to the Qualitative Research Methods in Health short course, Fiona teaches on research methods and social science courses and modules, such as the BSc Population Health Sciences, the Medicine MBBS BSc and the Population Health MSc. She also supervises undergraduate and postgraduate students. View Fiona’s Iris profile for more information about her work and publications.

Stephanie Kumpunen

Stephanie Kumpunen

Stephanie is a THIS Institute Doctoral Fellow at UCL and a Senior Fellow in Health Policy at Nuffield Trust (a London-based health and care think tank). Her research focuses on the organisation of Primary Care and community-based health and care services.

Stephanie has led on a number of qualitative studies and mixed-methods evaluations. She has a particular interest in rapid qualitative approaches; namely rapid ethnographies that inform health and care service improvement. View Stephanie’s UCL profile for more information about her work and publications.

Learner reviews

“The course is a really a great opportunity to read, reflect, discuss and share research, which is helpful for personal and professional development.” [Academic Clinical Fellow, Spring 2022]

“This session really helped me to organise my thoughts and put together a coherent plan for future research. It will make writing my protocol very easy!” [PhD Student, Spring 2022]

“It was such an excellent course. The information and materials provided were straight to the point and helpful, the working atmosphere was inspiring and constructive, and the tasks were interesting and activating. Thank you to all tutors!” [Clinical Research Programme Coordinator, Spring 2022]

“Great tutors, great reading material. It was very interesting to hear other peoples' experiences. Although this course was virtual, there were plenty of opportunities for interaction. I now have a better understanding and I am confident to run my study. I would recommend this course to anyone who wants an intro in qual research.” [Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow, 2021]

"I have a more clear understanding of the basics of qual methods, terminology and ways it may fit into my own research." [Researcher, 2019] 

Course information last modified: 22 Apr 2024, 13:33