Fun with Focus Groups

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Objectives. What is a focus group?What is a focus group used for?How do you plan for a focus group?How do you conduct a focus group?How do you compile and report findings from a focus group?. What is a focus group?. Facilitated group discussionInterviewer asks open-ended questions to a small group of peopleQuestions are discussed through group interaction Designed to obtain perceptions of a sample group of the target population.

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Fun with Focus Groups

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1. Fun with Focus Groups Minnesota Department of Health Joanne Moze CDC Research and Evaluation Fellow [email protected]

2. Objectives What is a focus group? What is a focus group used for? How do you plan for a focus group? How do you conduct a focus group? How do you compile and report findings from a focus group?

3. What is a focus group? Facilitated group discussion Interviewer asks open-ended questions to a small group of people Questions are discussed through group interaction Designed to obtain perceptions of a sample group of the target population

4. Uses Community assessment Program design Survey development Testing reactions to policy, systems and environmental strategies Follow-up to a survey

5. Uses Main concern is with depth of opinion, not with whether people agree or disagree Questions cannot easily be asked or answered on a written survey There is time, knowledge, and resources to recruit group participants Conducting formative research and need feedback from a target audience Interested in qualitative, subjective information

6. Advantages Low cost for preparation and analysis Results are available quickly Many people can be interviewed at the same time Stimulates dialogue and new ideas Generates ideas for evaluation questions to be included in other survey methods Format allows for flexibility

7. Disadvantages Requires good moderator skills Can be difficult to recruit participants Results can be difficult to analyze and hard to quantify Avoiding bias can be difficult Results may not apply to the target population

8. Planning the focus group Define the purpose of your assessment/evaluation Gather existing data Consider your timeline and your budget Determine the number of focus groups Determine the size of focus groups Gather necessary equipment Set the time and location Recruit participants Prepare the questions Identify staff who will be involved in the focus group

9. Recruitment of participants Recruit more participants than needed Allows for no-shows Set criteria for inclusion Does age, gender, ethnicity matter? Select individuals with common characteristics Select individuals unfamiliar to each other Determine how you will find potential participants

10. Recruitment of participants Recruit at least two weeks before focus group Emphasize the benefits of participation Chance to shape the community Incentives Refreshments Send a written reminder or invitation Make a courtesy reminder call the day before

11. Developing questions Carefully consider the purpose of your assessment/evaluation Include fewer than ten questions Start with general questions and get more specific Introductory Transition Key Ending Summary

12. Developing questions Use open-ended questions Don’t ask “why?” Be cautious of “what-if” questions Ask only one question at a time Use phrases like “what prompted you to….” or “describe” or “if you could change” Think of potential probes for each question Don’t ask leading questions Don’t use jargon/unclear terminology

13. Example We want to find about more information about why adult members of the community are not more physically active and what can be done to help them become more active

14. Examples….. Good questions…… Not so good questions…..

15. Effective Moderators: Have good listening, observational and speaking skills Have experience facilitating groups or meetings Can foster open and honest dialogue among diverse groups and individuals Can remain neutral Are sensitive to gender and cultural issues Are sensitive to differences in power among and within groups Have a good sense of humor

16. Conducting At the beginning…. Welcome and logistics Overview of the topic and purpose of the session Ground rules Only one person talks at a time Confidentiality is assured There are no right or wrong answers It is important to hear all sides of an issue It is important to hear from all participants Participant introduction and icebreaker question

17. The role of the moderator Keep the discussion on track without inhibiting the flow of ideas Create and maintain a comfortable environment for all participants Ensure all group members contribute Monitor time Politely and diplomatically enforce ground rules Maintain group enthusiasm and interest Use prompts and probes to stimulate discussion

18. Examples of Clarifying and Probe Questions Would you explain further? Would you give me an example of what you mean? Would you say more? Tell us more. Is there anything else? Please describe what you mean. I don’t understand. Does anyone see it differently? Has anyone had a different experience?

19. Moderator Tips Do… Show interest and respect in what participants are saying Make eye contact Elicit other viewpoints Make sure each question has been fully answered Pause five seconds before moving onto the next question Ask clarifying questions

20. Moderator tips Don’t… Express your own opinion Make positive verbal responses Read the questions Downplay people’s ideas Interrupt

21. Moderator tips What should you do if… The discussion gets side-tracked? Someone isn’t participating? Someone is dominating the discussion? Participants are having side conversations?

22. Key Success Factor!!! The moderator must be able to stimulate INTERACTION among group members.

23. Use an assistant moderator Takes notes Handles logistics Name tags (first name only) Room setup Refreshments Incentives Records discussion Sits away from the group Includes diagram of the seating arrangement At the end of the discussion: Asks about anything that needs clarification Provides two minute summary

24. Conducting Conclusion Finish with an “all things considered” question Summarize with confirmation Review the purpose and ask if anything was missed Thank you and dismissal

25. Note-taking tips Make notes as complete and as clear as possible. Pay attention to cues, posture, gestures, comments, or facial expressions that might explain how the participants feel and react to the question. Listen for cues as to important points and for repetition of points Do not try to take down everything that participants say.

26. Evaluation Debrief between the moderator and assistant moderator Listen to the taped recording Make a transcript or written summary Consider: What patterns emerge? What are the common themes? What new questions arise?

27. Analysis tips Consider the words context changes of opinion frequency of comments amount of detail given intensity of comments Find the big ideas

28. Reporting Introduction Purpose Procedures Findings Summary of each key theme Illustrative quotes Interpretation Conclusions Big Ideas Recommendations Appendix Include a copy of the questions

29. Summary Provide depth over breadth Use small samples and the findings cannot be generalized Can ask a variety of questions and explore ideas as they arise Generate rich, complex ideas that are more difficult to analyze Provide breadth over depth Require large samples and are more easily generalized Are standardized but do not allow the exploration of answers in depth Can be relatively simple to analyze

30. Resources This link has some tools including a focus group checklist, a sample note taking form and some advice on how to handle difficult situations: The Community Tool Box - this site has a lot of good information, including some good sample questions.

31. Questions? Contact Information: Sapna Swaroop SHIP Evaluation Coordinator [email protected] (651) 201-5441 Joanne Moze CDC Research and Evaluation Fellow [email protected] (651) 201-5393 SHIP toll free phone number: 1-800-222-2884

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