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.
1. Fun with Focus Groups
Minnesota Department of Health
CDC Research and Evaluation Fellow
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
Testing reactions to policy, systems and environmental strategies
Follow-up to a survey
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Name tags (first name only)
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
What patterns emerge?
What are the common themes?
What new questions arise?
27. Analysis tips Consider the
changes of opinion
frequency of comments
amount of detail given
intensity of comments
Find the big ideas
28. Reporting Introduction
Summary of each key theme
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: http://www.omni.org/docs/FocusGroupToolkit.pdf
The Community Tool Box http://ctb.ku.edu/tools/en/section_1018.htm - this site has a lot of good information, including some good sample questions.
31. Questions? Contact Information:
SHIP Evaluation Coordinator
CDC Research and Evaluation Fellow
SHIP toll free phone number: