Focus Group Discussion

INTRODUCTION
Focus group discussions have become a popular method of obtaining information regarding numerous topics.Focus groups are a good method to get people involved in the decision making process and have them provide their input regarding the topic

WHAT IS A FOCUS GROUP?.
A focus group could be defined as a group of interacting individuals having some common interest or characteristics, brought together by a moderator, who uses the group and its interaction as a way to gain information about a specific or focused issue.

FOCUS GROUPS CAN :
  • Give information on how groups of people think or feel about a particular topic
  • Give greater insight into why certain opinions are held
  • Help improve the planning and design of new programs
  • Provide a means of evaluating existing programs
  • Produce insights for developing strategies for outreach
FOCUS GROUPS CANNOT :
  • Valid information about individuals
  • Valid "before-and-after" information (how things have changed over time)
  • Information that you can apply generally to other groups of people
CONDUCTING A FOCUS GROUP
1. Conceptualization(Developing the questions),
2. Interview
3. Analysis and reporting
  • Preparing for the Focus Group Discussion
  • When preparing for the focus group discussions there are several considerations including what questions will be asked, who will participate, where will the discussions be held, and who will conduct the sessions? The first order of business is to develop a discussion guide.
  • Developing the Discussion Guide. The discussion guide contains the questions which will be asked to participants during the discussion sessions. Approximately 10 to 15 questions should be used for the discussion.
  • Reserve a Time and Place. Reserving a time and place to conduct the discussion is something which should be done well in advance to the actual date of the discussion sessions. .
  • Provide an Incentive For Participation. Individuals taking part in a discussion session should be compensated for their participation.
  • Determine What Equipment is Needed. The discussion team must determine how detailed of information they want to obtain from the discussion. This will determine whether to audio tape, videotape, or simply take notes
  • Selection of Focus Group Discussion Participants
  • Choosing the Number and Size of the Groups
  • A good size for a discussion group is between 8 to 10 participants per session.The number of participants per session will be based upon the potential pool of participants
  • Establish a Pool of Potential Participants. Once the number of participants has been determined, it is necessary to establish a pool of potential participants
  • Assume Some Participants Will Not Show. It is difficult to assure all participants will show up for the discussion as some individuals may forget, run into a scheduling conflict, or just decide not to take part.
  • Contact Potential Participants. After obtaining a pool of potential participants, the individuals should be contacted by telephone with information regarding the discussion session. If they are  interested, then provide the date, time, and location of the session.
  • Follow-up Letter. Approximately a week to ten days prior to the discussion session a follow-up letter should be mailed to individuals who agreed to take part.
  • Preparation for the Discussion Sessions
  • Room Configuration. The discussion room and viewing room should be setup and ready for the discussion when participants arrive.
  • Video Equipment. If the sessions will be videotaped it is necessary to arrive well in advance to the start of the discussion to setup the equipment.
  • Refreshments. Refreshments should be placed on a separate table in the discussion room
  • Other considerations. Other items which need to be considered include name tags, consent forms, and payment to participants.
  • Moderating the sessions
  • Experienced focus group moderator conducts the sessions.
  • Keep the Conversation Flowing. . The moderator should try to keep the discussion as informal as possible and should encourage all participants to speak whatever is on their mind
  • Length of the Discussion. The discussion session should last approximately 1 and 1/2 hours
  • Be neutral. One of the benefits of having an outside person moderate the discussion is that the person can be neutral. Some people may not like the topic being discussed and should be allowed to voice their opinion
  • Talk to Members of the Discussion Team. During the discussion session, the moderator should take time to confer with the members of the Discussion team to determine if further issues should be explored.
  • Analysis of the Results
  • Review  Notes. After a discussion session is completed, have a look at your notes and highlight items  wished to review in greater detail when viewing the videotape
  • Review the Videotapes. The videotapes should reviewed shortly after the completion of the discussion session
  • Writing the Report. The written report should follow the questions contained in the discussion guide.
ADVANTAGES OF USING FOCUS GROUPS
  • -People naturally interact and are influenced by others
  • -Provide data more quickly and at lower cost
  • -Requires less preparation
  • -Interact directly with respondents
  • -Very flexible
  • -Results are easy to understand
DISADVANTAGES OF USING FOCUS GROUPS
  • - Have less control over group
  • -Produces relatively chaotic data making data analysis more difficult
  • -Limit ability to generalize to larger populations
  • -Requires carefully trained interviewer
  • -Uncertainty about accuracy of what participants say.
  • Focus group discussion will help to pool the information to solve the task

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