Focus Groups Part 1: Preparing for a Successful Focus Group

Academic News & Updates

There are many data collection methods for qualitative research, one or more of which may be appropriate for your dissertation depending on your research problem, purpose, and research question(s). One method is the focus group which, as we have blogged about before, is a true unsung hero of qualitative data collection. This method can yield lots of great qualitative data, which are enhanced by observations of focus group participants during the meeting. But how do you prepare to run a successful focus group? We will tackle this topic in this blog.

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Just like with other qualitative data collection methods, the focus group requires a clear focus group protocol and the appropriate participants. Your research problem, purpose, and question(s) will drive who your participants will be. Just like with interviews, these need to be people who can provide rich information that will help address your research question(s).

Your focus group protocol will also be similar to an interview protocol. As you would with an interview protocol, you will need to outline the questions you will ask of participants during the focus group. It may be helpful to send these questions to participants ahead of time so they can think about them before the meeting. Let them know what you will expect of them during the group meeting. Also, make sure you select a comfortable, private location to conduct the focus group.

Before the meeting, it is a good idea to follow up and confirm with your participants. Participants often forget that they agreed to participate in focus groups or assume that because others will participate, they can blow it off. So, be proactive to minimize the chances of no-shows. Think about sending gentle reminders a week before the focus group date and again the day before. Confirm the time and location, and make sure that your audio recording device is ready to go. Then, show up!

In the next blog in this series, we will discuss tips for running the focus groups.