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I have a list of UK postcodes and a number of participants in a survey. I would like to map the first three letters of the UK postcode and I would like a shape....a circular shape for example which will show a figure and its size is relative to the figure, ie. 50% is half the size of 100% in each postcode area. This will show how many people participated from different areas.

I am totally new to QGIS and I was hoping that I could get a link to either a guide on how to do this, or link to practice data together with a step-by-step guide.

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Assuming you have a spatial table for post codes and a .csv containing number of participants with a name or id that is common to both the spatial file and the .csv, the following tutorial will enable you to create a spatial file of the required data: http://www.qgistutorials.com/en/docs/performing_table_joins.html

If your new postcode file is not points then you need to use the following answer to get centroid points from postcode polygons: How to determine the centroid of polygons?

Once you have your points you can use the "Layer Properties" dialogue to create your desired circles (use "Graduated" in style) see http://docs.qgis.org/2.0/en/docs/training_manual/vector_classification/classification.html

Create labels (use the expression: left( "Postcode_name_field" ,3) to get the first three characters of the postcode name - see my favourite: Recommendations for learning to use the expressions in QGIS

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