Organising a focus group

Recruiting participants can sometimes be the hardest of all focus group planning-related tasks. To ensure you get the most information, you need to be talking to the right people in the correct group dynamic. But, as you may well know, gathering such a group is not as simple as it seems.

 We at Polar Insight have put together a few tips on how to gather your focus group to advance your specific research query.

Specify who you want to talk to

 The most important questions every focus group leader must ask themselves are:

  • Who do you think is relevant to talk with and why?
  • What characteristics make this group meaningfully similar?
  • What characteristics make these groups meaningfully different from one another?
  • What traits, characteristics and behaviours do you need to exclude from this research, as they are not relevant and could skew results?

 By asking these four questions during group selection, you can vastly improve your process. For example, if you’re exploring the reasoning behind low attendance to a social service, you may want to distinguish between infrequent, lapsed and non-attenders. Profiling in this manner can allow you to meaningfully compare and contrast the findings at the analysis stage.

Screening your participants

It can also be useful to form a screening questionnaire. Whether verbal or written, this can ensure that those participating in the focus group are exactly those who you wish you talk to. With the four questions we sited, you can create a list of inclusion and exclusion criteria to focus your thinking. These criteria should be limited to no more than four or five, as narrowing down with more could make recruitment very difficult. Focus on why the criteria are needed, what you will be excluding by narrowing down to this level and whether it is necessary. If someone does not fit the bill due to this screening process, you can simply say that the group they qualify for is already full.

Assure your focus group is representative and accessible

It is also important to consider the representation of you focus groups – regarding factors such as their gender, ethnicity, income bracket, disability, and so on. Wherever appropriate in your research, you must try to represent the community as equally as possible.

Another worthy note is to make your focus group is as accessible as possible. For example, if the majority of the participants are likely to have children, avoid holding the focus group during school opening or closing times. Furthermore, the location should be accessible and spacious and comfortable enough for the participants. Overall, you must think of any inconveniences this research may cause and work around them so people can take part without any barriers or inconvenience.