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close this bookA Manual for the Use of Focus Groups (Methods for Social Research in Disease) (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1993, 97 pages)
close this folderPart II: Staff training for focus group discussions
View the documentSection 1: Introduction
View the documentSection 2: Introduction to focus groups
View the documentSection 3: Overview of skills training session
View the documentSection 4: Roles of the team
View the documentSection 5: Personal characteristics of the moderator
View the documentSection 6: Preparation for each focus group discussion
View the documentSection 7: Entering the community and activities for the reception of participants
View the documentSection 8: Beginning the focus group discussion
View the documentSection 9: Moderator skills: Asking questions
View the documentSection 10: Encouraging and controlling the discussion
View the documentSection 11: Moderator and observer skills: Observing non-verbal messages
View the documentSection 12: Observer skills: Recording the session
View the documentSection 13: Closing the discussion and meeting
View the documentSection 14: The debrief

Section 6: Preparation for each focus group discussion

6.1 Mental preparation

As the focus group is an activity that requires intense concentration for a one to two hour period, it is important that the moderator is mentally alert and free from anxieties or worries. For the period of the study that includes focus groups, being well rested will assist in your ability to concentrate.

Another factor influencing the success of the focus group is your ability to conduct a smooth and natural conversation, and it will be necessary for you to memorise the questions that will be asked. You will always have a copy of them in front of you, but they should only be glanced at to remind you what the next question should be or what small prompting questions to use to encourage conversation. We will provide examples of this later.

6.2 Focus group discussion checklist

Any activity that requires many activities, equipment and field visits needs to be well planned. Although the majority of plans have been made, it will always be necessary to make sure that you are leaving for the field with everything necessary to conduct the focus group as successfully as possible.

You should prepare a checklist to go through before you leave for the field for every focus group. Any member of the team can be responsible to check that everything is prepared and available. In your list include all the paper work, necessary equipment and lists of participants. When making your equipment list, think about everything you will possibly need including batteries and spare pieces of equipment should any equipment fail. Take extra batteries and tapes with you. Also ensure that one person is responsible for actually testing all the equipment before departure.

Use the checklist before every focus group, even when you feel you know all that is required from memory. It is a good habit to get into and will save you much anxiety especially in the early days of the project. Checklists also stop everyone thinking that someone else has prepared things!