Focus Groups Part 2: Running a Successful Focus Group

Qualitative Methodology

In Part 1 of this series on focus groups, we discussed preparing to run a successful focus group, a powerful method of qualitative data collection. In this blog, we will talk about running a successful focus group.

Hopefully you will have chosen a quiet, private space to conduct your focus group. Comfortable seating is a plus! Arrange the chairs into a circle if possible. Doing this will ensure participants can look at each other when talking and take cues – both verbal and nonverbal – off other participants. This will also provide the best angle for you to observe participants as they speak. It is a good idea to bring light refreshments and maybe coffee and water for your participants. Food goes a long way to keeping participants happy and comfortable!

Before beginning the focus group, introduce yourself to everyone and explain the purpose of your research and the purpose of the focus group. Also make sure all participants have given their consent and confirm with them that it is okay to audio record the session. Remember that ethical guidelines require transparency.

You are the moderator of the focus group, which means that you will be following your protocol and not contributing. Do not interrupt participants as they speak and avoid inserting yourself into the discussion more than necessary. You are there to learn from your participants. Encourage participants to speak openly and freely. If participants get derailed, try to steer them back on topic by referring to your protocol. Try to encourage participants who have not spoken to talk – you want data from everyone! You may take notes during the session, but make sure that you pay attention to what participants are saying. You do not want to be looking down and writing notes during the entire session.

After the focus group is over, thank people for their participation! They have shared their valuable free time with you, so let them know that you appreciate this. Close by highlighting some of the “big ideas” that came out of the focus group and ask if participants have other ideas for what the takeaways of the session were. Let participants know that you will follow up with them by providing each with a copy of the transcript for them to verify for accuracy. Confirm that you have the participants’ contact information to do this.

After the focus group, transcribe the recording of the session. Then, contact your participants with the transcript. You can do this either by providing the entire transcript to all participants or by sending participants their respective contributions to the focus group. Ask them to verify the accuracy of their statements and to let you know if amendments need to be made. If so, make the necessary changes to the transcripts prior to data analysis. If not, the transcripts are ready for data analysis.


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