This is Part 2 of our series on successful focus group implementation. Review Part 1 tips here.
- Moderating Approach
The skill of the moderator can make or break the focus group. It’s best to hire a professional who has experience managing the dynamics of a focus group. It’s not uncommon for discussions to go off topic, and a good moderator will know how to get the group back on track. They’ll also be able to probe on topics that may not be explicitly stated in the moderator’s guide, but are brought up during discussion. Here are a few other tips that we routinely implement in our focus groups to maximize participation.
- When possible, have a co-moderator present to help set up, sign participants in, and take notes. If the project requires confidentiality, ask participants to sign a confidentiality agreement, or verbally reinstate the need for confidentiality.
- Ask participants to use the restroom and turn off electronic devices before getting started to minimize outside distractions.
- Provide name cards for participants and moderators. We like to start with an ice breaker such as “What is your favorite TV show” or something equally light-hearted and non-controversial.
- Inform participants (again) if you will be recording the focus group, and the level of confidentiality they can expect from their participation. Most of our recordings are used to generate transcripts, and we do not include full names in the reports.
- Once the discussion is complete, have the co-moderator assist with distributing honorariums and obtaining signatures for the receipt of those rewards. Also be sure to label any notes obtained from the moderator and participants immediately following the discussion to avoid confusion during data analysis.
- Getting the Most Out of Your Data
Once the focus group discussions are complete, the fun part begins – data analysis! Not all focus groups will require full transcription of the discussions, so it is important to determine if it will be necessary to include an allotted amount in the project budget. A typical transcription will take approximately twice the amount of time it took to conduct the focus group. So a 90-minute discussion would take about three hours to transcribe. For groups where transcription is not necessary, moderator and participant notes will be utilized to complete the analysis. Below is a high-level summary of the data analysis procedures for a focus group.
- First, the researcher will review all notes or transcripts to determine codes for major themes that exist across the focus groups.
- Sub-categories of themes that emerge will then be determined.
- Direct quotes will be pulled to support the themes and key findings.
- If other modes of research were conducted, the findings from the focus groups can be triangulated to provide a basis for an executive summary in the final report. For example, if a theme from the focus groups aligns with a finding from an online survey, it would be important for the researcher to note this in the executive summary.
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