Focus Group Discussion Best Practices

Focus Group Discussion (FGD) is a part of exploratory research which involves in-depth discussion to collect information about people’s opinions, beliefs, attitudes & perceptions on subject of interest. FGD is generally required at concept development stage or before development of questionnaire for generating attributes.

FGD can be broadly divided into following stages:

FGD flow

Determining objective & target group: Objective of the study is determined basis what kind of information need to be collected & who can provide that information will determine participant of the study. Demographic characteristics like age, gender, occupation, education etc. become key in determining who need to be invited for FGD. Convenience sampling is generally utilised for recruiting participants.

Designing discussion guide: Basis objective of the study, we can narrow down list of topics/questions we need to ask, which should be appropriate looking at the time duration defined for FGD. Typically, a standard FGD is kept upto 60 minutes as beyond which, it starts creating fatigue among participants. 

Generally, while framing discussion guide our approach is to move from ‘general to specific’. We should try to keep all questions open ended as intent of research is to promote discussion. If possible, we should have levels of probing for each question till participants have nothing new to add about the topic being discussed. We need to declare in the starting of discussion guide that no answer is right/wrong, so that participants don’t become conscious/ or biased while discussing the topic. We need to take care the objective of the study is achieved, hence should allot time to each section of discussion guide, making sure crucial topics are given more share of total time.

Recruiting Moderator: Moderator plays key role in success of FGD. Moderator need to make sure discussion is moving on the right track & is capable enough to change the direction of discussion as per mood of the group. Moderator also needs to have basic knowledge about the topic at hand & should be familiar with local dialect of the participants.

Shortlisting Participants: List of possible participants need to be prepared basis target group criteria & we should start inviting participants at least 1-2 weeks before FGD. Ideally, in FGD we should have around 8-10 participants though we should keep extra participants (may be 1 or 2) as a backup plan. Verification of their participation should be done twice or more before actual execution of FGD. We should also keep in mind that participants are not familiar with each other as that would create biasedness during discussion.

Finalising Venue: We should try to keep venue in central public place of the location where reach-ability for most of the participants is easy. It should be neat, properly lit, should have extra space for any unforeseen requirements & also have one-way mirror wall. One-way mirror wall is a crucial requirement in FGD where we can observe participants body language without making them conscious. Ideally while conducting FGD, no one should be present in the room except participants & moderator and other external disturbance/movement should not be allowed.

At venue, certain materials like notepads, pencils/pen, tape recorder, Participant basic information form, gifts/incentives, projector (if required), and refreshment for participants should be kept ready. Idea is to create comfortable environment for participants & avoid end moment chaos.

Execution of FGD: While executing FGD, timelines of admin, moderator & participants is one of the important criteria. Ideally, FGD’s should be video-recorded for a more enhanced analysis later. Consent needs to be taken from participants that their conversation will be recorded & also will kept confidential. Also, participants need to be instructed to keep cellphones switched off during FGD to avoid any kind of disturbance.

While executing FGD, moderator need to take care that everyone is participating equally:

  • One person is speaking at a time
  • Further probing shy participants
  • Acknowledging and soliciting ‘dominant’ participants opinion
  • Summarising unclear comments made by any participant

Topics: Market Research

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