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Presentation (40 minutes) Practice moderating (60 minutes) Debrief and questions (20 minutes)
Maintain neutrality Control the environment Guide the conversation Generate valuable information
Focus groups are unstructured qualitative research tools, meaning the goal is to have a conversation with the participants and hear their responses in their own words
Focus groups are a tool for gathering qualitative data from a population of interest Focus groups can be used to explore a topic in order to gather feedback on that topic Focus groups are not instruction/outreach opportunities (though that is often a by- product)We believe that the participants have valuable information to share with us
“Researchers attempt to capture peoples explanations for how things happen” Focus groups are good for answering “how?” and “what?” questions – open ended question Focus groups are great when you want to look at a topic up close rather than get a panoramic view of the entire issue Focus groups include the researcher in an active wayFocus groups are designed to uncover insights and perspectives that are not retrievable by other methods from a small group of participants
Standard Uses a rigid set of questions Guided Uses a set of topics to explore, but the question wording is flexible Exploratory The most informal, questions arise through the course of the conversation about the topic
Engagement questions: introduce participants to a topic and make them comfortable with the topic of discussion What is your favorite toothpaste? What do you notice when you look at other people’s teeth?http://assessment.aas.duke.edu/documents/How_to_Conduct_a_Focus_Group.pdf
Exploration questions: get to the meat of the discussion Who in particular has influenced your dental habits? What are the pros and cons of flossing your teeth? When you floss, how do follow through? When you don’t, why not? How do you feel when told about possible damage caused by not flossing? How do you feel about yourself when you floss regularly? When you don’t?http://assessment.aas.duke.edu/documents/How_to_Conduct_a_Focus_Group.pdf
Exit question: check to see if anything was missed in the discussion Is there anything else you would like to say about why you do or do not floss your teeth on a regular basis?http://assessment.aas.duke.edu/documents/How_to_Conduct_a_Focus_Group.pdf
Representative samples of your population “Statistically significant”
Quantitative (e.g., surveys) Qualitative (e.g., focus groups)Objective: factual, able to be counted Subjective: opinions, judgments, beliefsDeductive: arrives at a specific Inductive: progresses from observingconclusion based on information individual cases to develop a generalassumed to be true understandingTests a hypothesis Uses grounded theory: generates a hypotheses from the data gatheredEmploys instruments that reduce data to Employs instruments that producenumbers linguistic dataResults are reported as numbers and Results are reported as words andstatistics phrasesResearchers use a tool to collect data Researcher is actively involved in the data collectionResearch design is fixed Research design is flexible and can evolve throughout the process
Researchers (us!) have an ethical responsibility to protect participant privacy The Institutional Review Board at Columbia monitors Human Subjects Research
Distribute the questionnaire Welcome, thank you and introduction Read from script Engagement question Exploratory questions + follow-ups Exit question Thank you!
Respect the participants Show empathy and positive regard (be Buddha) Understand the purpose of the study Communicate clearly Be open, not defensive Nonjudgmental Get the most useful information for your colleagues about the topic at hand You ARE the research toolExercise emotional discipline.
Personality: sensitive, creative, confident Communication skills: listen, question, be clear Management skills: establish rapport, maintain control, be direct, be flexible, be receptive
The focus group begins the moment people enter the room.
Smile Listen actively Good eye contact Head nodding, slowly (not in agreement (fast), but encouraging further disclosure) Use neutral language responses to encourage the speaker to continue: “yes” “ok” “mm hm” Avoid judgmental language: “that’s correct” “you’re right” “I agree” “no” “good idea!” “what?!” Don’t interrupt Be careful with humor – just be yourself!
Can you explain more? Can you give an example? Would you say a little more about that? Tell us more. Say more. Is there anything else? Please describe what you mean. I don’t understand. Can you be more specific? What do you mean by….?If other participants are nodding their heads in agreement or disagreement with the speaker, this should be recorded in the notes. The facilitator should ask the other participants for more information: “You’re nodding/shaking your head. Can you share what you think about this?”
“I think you’re saying…” “Let me know if I heard correctly…”Asking participants to confirm what you’re hearing can be very valuable. Always ask for clarification if you need it. Be careful not to sway the conversation by introducing your own perspective.
Be aware of your biases and judgments Treat everyone equally Be aware of your body language We already know your opinions and experience; your input will be taken into consideration at a different point in the project NonjudgmentalCreate a comfortable, non-threatening environment.
A note-taker’s role is to take notes. This person is neither a participant, nor a facilitator. The note-taker should refrain from contributing to the discussion unless called on directly by the facilitator Note takers should try to be as descriptive as possible, practically transcribing the conversation.
Groups should be relatively homogenous, to maximize disclosure Gender Age Power “Cliques”
Some people “think aloud.” Restrict your eye contact with this person, as necessary. Look at your papers, or other participants. Do not nod, smile, or otherwise encourage them to continue speaking with your body language “Thank you. Let’s hear from someone else now.” “Does anyone feel differently?” “Does anyone have anything else to contribute on this topic?”
Others may be reflective thinkers who don’t “think aloud.” Maximize eye contact, smile encouragingly “Chris, what do you think?” “Ted, you haven’t had a chance to speak. How do you feel about this?” “Carole, I know you’ve had experience with this. Can you share it?” If no one is talking, call on people. It’s ok!
Silence isn’t bad; give people time to think about their responses Be aware of your body language; wait patiently Restate the question to prompt a response Call on someone. You can often tell who wants to speak, but might be shy. Don’t force the development of an opinion Try not to interrupt the natural flow of the conversation
We want to encourage people to state different points of view, even if they’re contrary to what someone else may have said. Always allow for a different perspective. Is there something we haven’t thought of/discussed? Has anyone else had a different experience? Does anyone feel differently about this? Do you have a different point of view or opinion?
Resist the urge to correct participants – usually the group will self-correct itself. You’ll be surprised!
Keep a clock or watch on hand and track the timing carefully. “I can see you all feel passionately about this topic, but we need to move on to something else, in the interest of time.”
It’s always a good idea to offer refreshments!Other incentives should be distributed at the end of the session. Participants who choose to leave without completing a session should receive the incentive.
Give each participant a blank piece of paper at the beginning of the session.“If there’s anything you don’t get to say during the session, or something important that we don’t cover, please write it on the paper, and I’ll collect them at the end.”
As soon as the focus group is over, the facilitator and note-taker should spend at least one hour going through the notes to recall as much information as possible to include in the notes.Refrain from making judgments or interpretations at this point. This is not analysis. Focus on recording as much information as possible.
Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research by Richard Krueger and Mary Anne CaseyAdvanced Focus Group Research by Edward R. FernPractical Research Methods for Librarians and Information Professionals by Susan Beck and Kate Manuel
Engagement questions I’d like you to tell me a little about your last vacation. Where did you go? With whom? Do you usually go on family vacations, with friends, or travel alone? Which do you prefer?Exploration questions How did you plan your last vacation? Did you use a travel agent or book everything yourself? If you used online resources to book your vacation which ones were the most helpful, which were the least helpful? What types of activities do you usually do when you’re on vacation? Do you take photos when you go on vacation? If so, what do you do with your photos after the vacation? If you flew, how was that experience for you? Do you feel you have enough vacation time? Did you rent a car on your last vacation? If so, how was that experience? How do you budget for your vacations? (Do you save money for each trip specifically or have an annual “vacation” budget?) What do you love about going on vacation? What do you hate about going on vacation?Exit questions Is there anything else you’d like to share about going on vacation?