Focus group discussions

Focus group discussions are group discussions where around 6 to 12 people meet to discuss health problems in detail. The discussion is led by a person known as a 'facilitator'. The box below describes the steps to use if you want to conduct a focus group discussion.

Conducting a focus group discussion

  • Select 6–12 participants for your focus group discussion. For the discussion of some sensitive issues, it might be necessary to lead one focus group of men only, and another of women only. For other issues, a mixed group could lead to interesting and informative discussions.
  • Prepare a focus group discussion guide. This is a set of questions which are used to facilitate the discussion. While the discussion is going, you can also generate more questions to ask the participants.
  • There should be one person who facilitates the discussion, and another person who takes notes during the discussion. If possible, it is also useful to record the discussion using a tape recorder, so that you can listen and analyse it later.

You may find it useful to use focus group discussions in the following situations:

  • When group interaction might produce better quality data. Interaction between the participants can stimulate richer responses, and allow new and valuable issues to emerge.
  • Where resources and time are limited. Focus groups can be done more quickly, and are generally less expensive than a series of in-depth interviews.

A group of men attend a focus group meeting.

Focus groups can be the source of a lot of useful information about local health conditions. (Photo: AMREF)

In this study session, you have learnt four techniques that will help you to conduct needs assessments. You can either select one technique which best fits the aims of your needs assessment, or use a combination of more than one technique to build a more complete picture of the issues you need more information about.

Spend a few moments thinking about these four techniques. Do you feel more at home with one than another? Do you think it might be best to use more than one method with a particular health education issue?

Show answer

You do not have to use all of these techniques all the time. Some work better in some situations. But it is worth practising, so that if and when you need a particular technique you have it at your finger tips.

Last modified: Monday, 7 July 2014, 8:57 PM