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Conducting Focus Groups


1. Conducting Focus Groups. API Survey Training. June 15, 2006. Mia Robillos. Rainbow Research ... Lead a discussion with a group of 8-12 people for a period ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Conducting Focus Groups

Conducting Focus Groups
  • API Survey Training
  • June 15, 2006
  • Mia Robillos
  • Rainbow Research

Focus Group Facilitator
  • Job Summary
  • Lead a discussion with a group of 8-12 people for
    a period of one-and-a-half to two hours.
  • Move the discussion along and ensure that all
    questions/topics are covered in the time allotted
  • "Break the ice" by creating a comfortable
    environment for the free exchange of opinions.
  • Encourage participation so that everyone that
    chooses to contribute has an opportunity to be
    heard and that no one individual dominates the

Focus Group Facilitator
  • Specific Responsibilities
  • Attend to participants' personal needs and
  • Spell out the purpose of the group and ground
    rules for participation
  • Dispel tension and discomfort - "Break the ice
  • Follow the interview guide and get as far through
    the agenda as possible
  • Keep the discussion balanced
  • Use open-ended questions to probe more deeply and
    draw people out
  • Wrap up the meeting
  • Debrief with the recorder at meetings' end to
    review key points and impressions

Focus Group Facilitator
  • Desired Qualities
  • Genuinely interested in others and their
  • Enjoys conversation
  • Flexible comfortable in departing from the
    script and "going with the flow" of conversation
  • Sense of humor
  • Comfort with disagreement argumentation

Focus Group Recorder/Notetaker
  • Job Summary
  • Record the discussion with a group of 8-12 people
    for a period of one-and-a-half to two hours.
  • Capture the conversation by taking detailed
  • On some occasions, and if the group agrees,
    capture the conversation by audio taping or video
    taping the group discussion

Focus Group Recorder/Notetaker
  • Specific Responsibilities
  • Take accurate detailed notes of discussion
  • Write down quotes that seem particularly
  • Make note of gestures, expressions, noises or
    other signs of agreement or disagreement
  • If discussion will be taped, secure active
    agreement from each group member
  • If using recorder, make sure everythings
    working, e.g., batteries, AC cords, outlets,
    microphone (sound check)
  • Assist the facilitator by monitoring the time
  • Have prearranged signs or signals for cueing the
    facilitator when to move on
  • Debrief with the facilitator at meetings' end to
    review key points and impressions

Focus Group Recorder/Notetaker
  • Desired Qualities
  • Genuine interest in others and their perspectives
  • Legible handwriting
  • Good listening skills
  • Familiarity with the operation of recorder

Stages of Focus Group
  • No single formula or recipe for carrying out
    focus groups but there is a general outline and a
    "rhythm" to conducting focus groups.
  • Described in four separate stages
  • Stage One Setting the Stage
  • Stage Two Filling Out the Landscape
  • Stage Three The Focus
  • Stage Four Wrap Up and Reflection

Stage 1
  • Basic administrative tasks briskly completed.
  • Facilitator and notetaker introduce themselves
    and explain the purpose, sponsor, how information
    will be used, etc.
  • Basic ground rules, particularly emphasizing
    mutual respect and confidentiality, are reviewed
  • Assure participants there are no right or wrong
    answers and the group is not expected to
    agree--in fact disagreement and divergent
    viewpoints are encouraged!

Stage 2
  • Beginning questions are asked to help people feel
    comfortable and to begin to sketch in the larger
    framework for the discussion
  • Open ended questions ask people to fill in their
    perception of the "landscape related to the
    issues of concern
  • People are asked to speak about more general,
    abstract things and begin to feel comfortable in
    a group discussion
  • Questions asked in Stage 2 can also help ease the
    tension and let the group discover their
    connections or common ground. E.g., general
    questions about how people perceive the climate,
    their communities and some reference to changes
    over the past five years

Stage 2 (cont.)
  • People are likely experiencing " primary tension"
    that comes with being in a new group, or a new
    group meeting for the first time
  • Until the tension is released, the group won't be
    optimally candid, comfortable or productive.
    Facilitator should work to dispel that tension
    (e.g., have them introduce themselves)
  • Very important that everyone in the group has an
    opportunity to speak in this stage (first five to
    ten minutes critical)

Stage 3
  • Focus narrows to the specific concerns of the
    focus group research group agenda shifts from
    the general background landscape to the specific
    issues (like a funnel)
  • At this point, divergent opinions and speculative
    ideas are encouraged
  • Group communication will change expect periods
    of loud, even raucous communication
  • Important to recognize and take note of the
    content which generates such outbursts of
    activity (e.g., noisier, louder voices, two or
    three people talking at once a high level of
    interest and nonverbal participation like head
    nodding, leaning forward, animated faces)

Stage 3 (cont.)
  • Note down Chaining and Conflict situations
  • Note what kinds of content (the stories, issues,
    or concerns) that trigger chaining or conflict
  • These provide important clues to what is
    important to the group and what generates high
    levels of involvement and emotional response

Stage 4
  • Facilitator begins to wrap up the group and
    provide some closure
  • At this stage, questions are designed to help
    participants reflect on things they've learned
    from the earlier discussion
  • Facilitator signals the end is near, often
    observing the time, and asks a specific
    reflective question that encourages participants
    to think back over the group discussion
  • Final thoughts are solicited and the moderator
    brings the group to a close, with thanks to

Helpful Reminders for Facilitators
  • Arrive at the focus group location at least 10-15
    minutes before the start
  • Arrange chairs in a circular or rectangular
  • Familiarize yourself well with the focus group
  • Conduct the focus group in a conversational tone
  • Be objective
  • Be ready to handle conflicts (opinions,
    philosophies, or personalities)
  • Encourage equal participation from everyone, but
    also keep track of time
  • Try to get through all the questions as much as
    you can
  • Keep track not only of the questions you ask, but
    also of participants responses
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