Short courses


Qualitative Research Methods in Health

  • 1 half-day per week
  • 10 weeks


This online 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

The course will be held online over 10 half days. 

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 (30 September and 7 October 2021)

Lead: Julia Bailey

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 (14 and 21 October 2021)

Lead: Jamie Ross

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 (4 and 11 November 2021)

Lead: Lorraine McDonagh

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 (18 and 25 November 2021)

Leads: Fiona Stevenson and Nathan Davies

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 (2 and 9 December 2021)

Leads: Jane Wilcock and Rachael Frost

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 online with a mixture of synchronous learning on Zoom (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

The 2021 autumn course is now fully booked. Dates for 2022 are currently being confirmed.

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 a link to 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 Sophia Hafeez (qrm@ucl.ac.uk).

Course team

Julia Bailey - joint course leader

Julia Bailey - joint course leader

Julia is an Associate Professor in the e-Health Unit at UCL. She also works as a doctor in sexual health clinics in South East London. Her research interests include sexual health, e-health, doctor-patient interaction, online trials, systematic reviews and qualitative methodology (especially discourse analysis).

Fiona Stevenson - joint course leader

Fiona Stevenson - joint course leader

Fiona is a Professor of Medical Sociology and Co-Director of eHealth Unit in the Department of Primary Care and Population Health at UCL. She's been using and teaching qualitative research methods for over 20 years. Her research primarily focuses on perceptions, communication and interactions about health. She has a particular interest in eHealth, user involvement and implementation of research. Her particular qualitative methodological expertise is in thematic analysis and conversation analysis.

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.

Nathan Davies

Nathan Davies

Nathan is a Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director for the Centre for Ageing & Population Studies at UCL. His research interests are in palliative care for people with dementia. He’s worked on several large scale national and international qualitative studies and has completed a qualitative PhD.

Rachael Frost

Rachael Frost

Rachael is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Ageing & Population Studies. Her research focuses on complex conditions in later life, such as frailty, dementia and mental health. She uses mixed-methods approaches, including qualitative primary studies and systematic reviews of qualitative research. She teaches on a number of qualitative research methods courses at UCL.

Jamie Ross

Jamie Ross

Jamie is a Senior Research Fellow in the eHealth Unit in the Department of Primary Care and Population Health. Her main research interests include self-management of long-term conditions and the development, evaluation and implementation of digital health. Jamie has experience with both qualitative and quantitative research methods and completed a mixed methods PhD.

Lorraine McDonagh

Lorraine McDonagh

Lorraine is a Senior Research Fellow in the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections. Her research primarily focuses on the psychological, behavioural, and cultural factors involved health and healthcare. She has a particular interest in sexual health and wellbeing, behaviour change, and vulnerable populations. She completed a mixed-methods PhD and has conducted several large scale qualitative and quantitative studies. 

Learner reviews

"Very useful and very very interesting" [PhD student, 2019]

"Everything I wanted/needed to learn was covered today" [PhD Student, 2019]

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

"Really good! I felt we could talk about all our experiences and doubts. It was good get feedback and answers for my project and I also learned from other." [PhD student, 2017]

"Excellent introduction, I feel much more confident to start interviewing now." [Academic Clinical Fellow, 2016]

"The role play was very valuable being interviewer, interviewee and observer, this gave me important insights in what works well and what to avoid. The sharing of experience with other people on the course is very motivating for me." [Research Nurse, 2014] 

Course information last modified: 16 Sep 2021, 09:48