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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 8: Beginning the focus group discussion

8.1 introduction

This part of the session is important as it sets the atmosphere for the whole focus group. It needs to be casual, but people need to be aware that there will be some structure and that we need to follow a semi-planned format. It is important not to appear too casual as people may not take the session too seriously. On the other hand, too much formality may restrict the flow of conversation.

8.2 Points for introducing the session

· Welcome the participants and thank them for coming. Introduce the team. If you are working in two languages, then the moderator should welcome the group through a direct translation. This gives the strong impression of their involvement in the session.

· Explain team's work. Provide a simple explanation of the project without giving away the exact nature of the research questions.

· Explain the different roles of the team.

· Explain why the participants were chosen. Include the importance of their contribution to the study and the community.

· Make sure people understand that the session will be confidential.

· Explain that you will be using a tape recorder (if appropriate) for the session in order to remember later what was said.

· Explain how the focus group works and "ground rules":

· a group discussion that is built around certain questions;

· session lasts for around an hour and a half;

· because of the need for translation and tape recording it is essential that only one person talks at a time (if appropriate);

· at certain times, the observer may need to check a point with the moderator, so please be patient (or if using two moderators, then there may be communication between them).

Try to keep the conversation "in the group" as other conversations going on between a couple of group members may distract the flow of discussion.

Tell participants you would like to hear from ALL of them about their feelings on the subject. Anything they want to say is important. Remember to give all in the group the chance to speak.

Because there is much information to get through in one hour, explain you may need to move onto the next question before the group has really explored one area.

Vague comments cannot provide the group with adequate information. Ask participants to clarify points when necessary. "I agree" comments will usually be followed by requests for explanation. "It is difficult to..." may need to be explained a bit more, such as why is it difficult.

· The group members introduce themselves.

· Ask for any questions.

· Start the session off with a question that will put the participants at ease. This can be a question that demonstrates that they all have something in common and can be comfortable about speaking freely. Or, it could be simply a very general question that is easy to answer and gets the group relaxed. This question may be rather long, certainly longer than in a survey questionnaire. This is because in general this encourages fuller answers in response. For example: "As I've explained, I am interested in finding out about the health problems of people in this village. I wonder if you could tell me what you think the main health problems are here?"