Having a focus group for your research can be beneficial in many ways. Focus groups are usually part of qualitative research at Master’s and PhD level because there needs to be a lot of organizing and communication with many people. To organize a focus group, you will first have to advertise the position and your topic of research. If people are interested in joining your focus group, you can further explain your research method and topic in detail when they contact you.
This article will help you understand how to organize a focus group for qualitative research
1. Be clear on your topic – Have a clear idea of the topic you are organizing and the type of questions you want to ask in your focus group. It is advantageous to have a group of similar minded people, or people from similar backgrounds, so that there is a more intellectual discussion on the topic. For example, if your topic was public transport, then if you asked open ended questions to start the discussion, then people will follow through with it and start conversations by themselves without your input all the time. This helps in having a larger discussion about the topic. For this, you will have to make sure that your topic is clearly defined and can be understood by a layman.
2. Advertise your research – It is important that you know where to look for people for your focus group. If you want intellectuals, then you will need to advertise in colleges or universities, so that people with similar interests can participate in your research. Instead, if it is the general population you are looking for, you can put in a word in your local bookshop or local supermarket to distribute or display your pamphlet. Depending on the type of people you want in your focus group, for a discussion, you will need to make it clear in a way they can understand. It is usually important to list a contact number or email address, so that people who are interested in participating in your focus group can contact you. Also, provide a short description of your research and what the participants can benefit if they join your group such as an overall goal or social goal that everyone can benefit.
3. Organize a meeting place – It is very important for you to organize a meeting place that people feel welcome and safe in. You can offer some food or drinks for the participants as an incentive, but this is usually left to the researcher. A conference room would be an ideal place so that the focus group is in a professional setting. Make sure you know the numbers who are coming to your research event and that the interested candidates RSVP for the focus group. This has become easier with technology, so you should definitely make use of social media to organize your focus group. The last thing you want is waiting for participants and having only a few or no one come to the focus group event.
4. Make it personable – It would be good if you can introduce yourself to the group or to individuals in the group before you organize the focus group because then they will have a personal introduction to who you are as a person. If people feel like they can open up to you and find your topic interesting, then the discussion will be more personable. People will also gain new contacts and meet other people in the focus group, who they can interact with at any stage. It is important that they feel confident in the topic that you are opening the discussion for. The participants should listen and respect you as a moderator. You will need to build a level of trust and cordiality with the participants.
5. Record the focus group – Make sure you always keep a record of the focus group. Whether its getting someone (an undergrad) to take minutes on the group or if you want you can record audio or video of the group, always with the consent of the participants. You will need to have a consent form so that the participants can sign and agree in participating in the focus group. Make sure that your participants can have a copy of the recorded output of the focus group, and if there are any results that you publish from the event, make sure the participants have access to all these outputs.
Focus groups take time to organize and there is a lot of work involved in this method of qualitative research. But as with any research method, the advantages of a focus group is endless. Make sure you interact with your participants and keep in touch with them throughout your research process, so that they know the progress of your research topic. One of the most difficult parts of a focus group is to get participants and if you manage to do that, then the other parts of organizing a focus group will be much easier. You need to be friendly and approachable for your participants. One of the main advantages of organizing a focus group is that it will drastically improve your people and social skills. If you want more information, you can read books, journal articles and google search on focus groups for research.