Focus Groups Christine Maidl Pribbenow BSP-SOTL Institute 2012
Definition and Purpose • A moderated discussion about specific topics on which stakeholder or customer feedback is desired. • A carefully planned discussion designed to obtain perceptions on a defined area of interest in a permissive, nonthreatening environment. It is conducted with approximately seven to ten people by a skilled interviewer. The discussion is comfortable and often enjoyable for participants as they share their ideas and perceptions. Group members influence each other by responding to ideas and comments in the discussion.
Participants • Stakeholders– people who care about the outcome of the group. • Participants– “informed subjects”– individuals who have had experience with, or can speak to, the topic you are concerned with. • Customers– people who may use the “product” of interest.
Setting Up • Determine purpose and goal of conducting focus group. • Identify participants and facilitator. • Write script and questions, most important first. • Get IRB approval if necessary. • Schedule place/time– location needs. • Invite participants, remind before. • Conduct group!
Methods • Discuss informed consent and limitations (cannot ensure anonymity or confidentiality). • Explain process and outcomes of the focus groups. • Introduce selves– first names. • Ask questions– provide adequate time and silence for people to participate. • Be sure to get dissenting opinions. • Stay on task and on time.
Data Collection and Analysis • Either audio- or videotape focus group. • Take notes– during and after– about questions asked, new questions asked, observations of the participants. • Transcribe focus group recording. • Conduct qualitative analysis, based on questions and purpose of group.
References and Resources • The Wilder Nonprofit Guide to Conducting Successful Focus Groups, J.S. Simon, 1999, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. • Facilitator Tool Kit, Office of Quality Improvement, UW-Madison, 2007. • Discipline-Based Education Research: A Scientist’s Guide, Slater, S.J., Slater, T.F., and Bailey, J.M., 2010, WH Freeman.