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Update – Respecting Your Participants: Ethical Considerations in Focus Groups

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
Focus groups, unlike some other forms of research, can feel quite informal. In fact, some of the best groups can look more like a table of friends chatting than a formal data collection effort. However, researchers always need to remember that focus groups (as well as one-on-one interviews and other qualitative methods) are research, and the same ethical requirements apply. If you’re working with a governmental agency or a university, you may need to have your project reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But even when your focus group effort does require these formal reviews, it is still important for researchers to remember their ethical responsibility to their participants. The most fundamental ethical behavior... more
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So You Have to Moderate a Focus Group - Five Things to Know Before Your First Group

qualitative / focus group / featured / blog

When a good moderator leads a focus group, it can look effortless. However, building rapport with respondents, managing the flow of the discussion, and probing respondents to get beyond surface-level responses are skills that require both training and experience. That’s why we recommend, whenever possible, having a professional moderator conduct your focus groups. But projects don’t always go according to plan, and you may end up in a situation where you have to moderate, whether you’re ready or not. If you’ve been thrown into the moderating deep end, focusing on these five key things can help your groups go smoothly.

  1. Be as familiar as possible with the materials and the research goals.
    When you’re in the room with your participants, you... more
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How to Moderate Focus Groups Like Oprah

focus group / qualitative / current events / featured
I am not usually interested in self-help books or “personal transformation” activities, but when a childhood friend invited me to go with her to a workshop hosted by Oprah Winfrey, I decided to embrace the potential cheesiness and buy a ticket. For two days, we (and a few thousand other people) listened as Oprah and a team of speakers talked about how to create “The Life You Want.” I heard all sorts of things over those two days---some of interesting, some useful, some a little crazy—but I found myself surprised over and over by how much Oprah was like a focus group moderator. As I watched her tell stories about her career and manage the crowd of thousands, I... more
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The Focus Group Road Show - Staying Sane Away From Home

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
A focus group project doesn’t necessarily involve travel—FMG certainly conducts a lot of focus groups here in our Arlington, VA office, and remote and online methods are being used more and more as the technological options expand. But when the goal of a project is to collect qualitative data from a diverse population of respondents, chances are this involves a moderator packing a suitcase and heading out on the road. Fors Marsh Group Travel Blog Post In the past few years of traveling the country to moderate groups, I've developed a few rules and want to share some tips to ensure your work goes smoothly and that you stay healthy - physically and mentally.

Working on the Road

... more
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Respecting Your Participants - Ethical Considerations in Focus Groups

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
Focus groups, unlike some other forms of research, can feel quite informal. In fact, some of the best groups can look more like a table of friends chatting than a formal data collection effort. However, researchers always need to remember that focus groups (as well as one-on-one interviews and other qualitative methods) are research, and the same ethical requirements apply. If you’re working with a governmental agency or a university, you may need to have your project reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But even when your focus group effort does require these formal reviews, it is still important for researchers to remember their ethical responsibility to their participants. The most fundamental ethical behavior... more
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Focus Group Best Practices: Writing Protocols

qualitative / focus group / blog

At the center of every qualitative project is the protocol, sometimes also called the moderator's guide, the discussion guide, or the script. This document establishes the structure of the group or interview, details the specific questions you will ask participants, and ultimately determines the kind of data you will be able to collect. It is also the guide that everyone working on the project will be using as they make their decisions-your clients will base their approval on the protocol content, the IRB will review it, and the moderator or interviewer will use it to guide the data collection process. The protocol is key to the success of your project, and keeping a few things in mind as you're writing it will help ensure... more

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Focus Group Best Practices: Homework

qualitative / focus group / blog

Typically, a qualitative research interview or focus group consists of strictly the data that is collected from your participants during a focus group or interview. But you can also ask participants to complete a “homework” assignment before they even get to the group. Homework assignments can be assets to your project, because they can help you:

  • Collect additional data without taking up time during the group or session itself.
  • Gets your participants engaged with the topic matter before they get to the group. As a result, you may be able to jump more quickly into the main discussion once the actual group or interview starts.
  • Weed out participants that won’t be engaged, or tip you off to who might be... more
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Focus Group Best Practices: Conducting Groups with Children and Young Adults

qualitative / focus group / featured / blog

If you’re looking for advice on conducting focus groups, you will find no shortage of information, suggestions, and strategies. However, most of the information out there assumes that your focus group participants will be adults. Doing qualitative research with children and young adults is a very different experience. For one thing, your research will typically involve much more careful scrutiny by your IRB or other oversight groups, as you’ll need to make sure that your study topic and questions are safe and appropriate for minors. But even once all the necessary approvals have been received, you will also likely need to use some different moderating techniques than you would with adults. Here are four things that we’ve learned to keep in mind when leading... more

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Focus Group Best Practices: Icebreakers

qualitative / focus group / blog

No matter what content or structure you have planned for your focus group research project, the first thing a moderator needs to do in any group is to get the participants talking. When people walk into a focus group they generally don’t know anyone, and may not even know what the discussion will be about. Those first few minutes of the discussion can set the tone for the whole group, so it is critical to start off with an icebreaker that makes your respondents feel comfortable and willing to participate.

The icebreaker is the first question that the moderator asks in the group and is usually part of participant introductions. It is often the only question that participants will feel they have to answer, since... more

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Focus Group Best Practices: Dry Run

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
Getting ready to start a focus group project can be stressful. You probably have a huge list of data you need to collect, and not that many groups to do it in. If a line of questions doesn’t work, or an activity is a flop, you may not have time to make changes. One strategy that can help you make every group as useful as possible is to do a dry run. When we’re getting ready to start a focus group project, we ask people office to act as test participants, bring them together in a room, and use the moderator’s guide to conduct a mock group. This gives us opportunity to test the questions, try out activities, and establish how long things will take.... more
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