Developing Questions for Focus Groups

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Richard A. Krueger

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    Acknowledgments

    I've always been impressed with the power of a good question. A good question tests our assumptions, leads us into new area of thinking, and helps us understand ourselves. I've seen the dramatic effect that questions can have. These questions can open the hearts of people, obtain insights as to the logic and views of others, and create reflective thinking. These questions are an essential element of the focus group interview. Effective questions allow participants to ponder the topic and respond from their personal reality.

    Thanks to Robert Merton and his colleagues for first introducing the disciplined strategy that has become known as focus group interviewing. Many others have assisted in perfecting the art of asking truly effective questions. Hundreds of professional moderators over the past five decades have created strategies and protocols for focus group questions. These professional moderators, particularly those of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA), willingly shared their ideas and approaches to asking truly effective questions.

    David Morgan, friend and valued colleague, invited me to assist in the preparation of books and has offered invaluable suggestions and strategies that clarified the writing and presentation of ideas. Mary Anne Casey carefully read each of the earlier drafts, sharpened the thoughts, and perfected the language. She provided continual encouragement and wise advice on the flow of ideas.

    When it comes to asking questions, we have much to learn from children. Children have an openness, an innocence, and a special talent for asking questions. To them, there is no such thing as a foolish question—this is an unfortunate adult creation. Along the way, many children have taught me about asking questions, This past year, I've had an opportunity to listen to the questions of Mary Ann (age 9), Sarah (age 6), and Claire (age 3). I only wish my answers were as good as their questions.

    Finally, I wish to acknowledge the contributions of many organizations as they tried new approaches, suggested alternatives, and freely offered their feedback and suggestions. They thought that I was the teacher, but in reality, I was their student.

    The production quality was improved by Susan Wladaver-Morgan, who offered editing suggestions. The staff at Sage Publications were most helpful. Their editors were encouraging, creative, and willing to take risks. Special thanks to Diana Axelsen, Ravi Balasuriya, Marquita Flemming, and C. Deborah Laughton for eagerly contributing their talents.

    A good book is one that touches us in several ways. It should be serious, yet funny; challenging, yet comfortable. It should raise the level of thought. But most of all, it should be fun to read. The best test is if you read more than what you intended. I hope that this book does that for you. May you find the insight, the seriousness, the guiding principles, and the humor in this volume.

    Introduction to the Focus Group Kit

    We welcome you to this series of books on focus group interviewing. We hope that you find this series helpful. In this section we would like to tell you a bit about our past work with focus groups, the factors that led to the creation of this series, and an overview of how the book is organized.

    We began our studies of focus group interviewing about the same time. Our academic backgrounds were different (David in sociology and Richard in program evaluation), and yet we were both drawn to focus group interviewing in the 1980s. We both had books published in 1988 on focus group interviewing that resulted from our research and practice with the methodology. At that time, we were unaware of one another's work and were pleased to begin a collegial relationship. Over the years, we've continued our studies independently, and occasionally our paths crossed and we had an opportunity to work together. In the last decade, we've worked together in writing articles, sharing advice on research studies, and teaching classes. We have generally found that we shared many common thoughts and concerns about focus group interviewing.

    During the 1990s, we found that interest in focus groups continued, and we both prepared second editions for our 1988 books. In 1995, the staff at Sage Publications asked us to consider developing a more in-depth treatment of focus group interviewing that would allow for more detail and guide researchers beyond the basic issues. We pondered the request and thought about how the materials might be presented. We weighed a variety of options and finally developed the kit in its present form. We developed this kit in an effort to help guide both novices and experts.

    In these books, the authors have occasionally chosen to use the word we. Although the authors share many common experiences with focus groups, our approaches can and do vary, as we hope is the case with other researchers as well. When you see the word we in the books of this series, it typically refers to a judgment decision by the specific author(s) of that particular volume. Much of what the authors have learned about focus groups has been acquired, absorbed, and assimilated from the experiences of others. We use we in circumstances where one of us personally has experienced a situation that has been verified by another researcher or when a practice or behavior has become standard accepted practice by a body of focus group moderators. The use of I, on the other hand, tends to refer to situations and experiences that one of us has witnessed that may not have been verified by other researchers.

    In terms of content, we decided on six volumes, each representing a separate theme. The volumes include the following:

    • Volume 1:The Focus Group Guidebook

      This volume provides a general introduction to focus group research. The central topics are the appropriate reasons for using focus groups and what you can expect to accomplish with them. This book is intended to help those who are new to focus groups.

    • Volume 2:Planning Focus Groups

      This volume covers the wide range of practical tasks that need to get done in the course of a research project using focus groups. A major topic is making the basic decisions about the group's format, such as the size of the groups, their composition, and the total number of groups.

    • Volume 3:Developing Questions for Focus Groups

      This book describes a practical process for identifying powerful themes and then offers an easy-to-understand strategy for translating those themes into questions. This book helps make the process of developing good questions doable by outlining a process and offering lots of examples.

    • Volume 4:Moderating Focus Groups

      The book is an overview of critical skills needed by moderators, the various approaches that successful moderators use, and strategies for handling difficult situations. Rookie moderators will find this book to be an invaluable guide, and veteran moderators will discover tips and strategies for honing their skills.

    • Volume 5:Involving Community Members in Focus Groups

      This book is intended for those who want to teach others to conduct focus group interviews, particularly nonresearchers in communities. Volunteers can often gather and present results more effectively than professionals. A critical element is how the volunteers are trained and the manner in which they work together.

    • Volume 6:Analyzing and Reporting Focus Group Results

      Analysis of focus group data is different from analysis of data collected through other qualitative methodologies, and this presents new challenges to researchers. This book offers an overview of important principles guiding focus group research and then suggests a systematic and verifiable analysis strategy.

    Early on, we struggled with how these materials might be presented. In order to help you find your way around the series, we developed several strategies. First, we are providing an expanded table of contents and an overview of topics at the beginning of each chapter. These elements help the reader quickly grasp the overall picture and understand the relationship between specific sections. Second, we've attempted to make the indexes as useful as possible. Volumes 2-6 contain two indexes: an index for that volume and a series index to help you find your way around the entire kit of six books. Finally, we are using icons to identify materials of interest. These icons serve several purposes. Some icons help you locate other materials within the series that amplify a particular topic. Other icons expand on a particular point, share a story or tip, or provide background material not included in the text. We like the icons because they have allowed us to expand on certain points without interrupting the flow of the discussion. The icons have also allowed us to incorporate the wisdom of other focus group experts. We hope you find them beneficial. We've also included icons in the book to help you discover points of interest.

    The BACKGROUND icon identifies the bigger picture and places the current discussion into a broader context.
    The CAUTION icon highlights an area where you should be careful. These are especially intended to help beginners spot potholes or potential roadblocks.
    The CHECKLIST icon identifies a list of items that are good to think about; they may or may not be in a sequence.
    The EXAMPLE icon highlights stories and illustrations of general principles.
    The EXERCISE icon suggests something you could do to practice and improve your skills, or something you could suggest to others to help them improve their skills.
    The GO TO icon is a reference to a specific place in this book or one of the other volumes where you will find additional discussion of the topic.
    The KEY POINT icon identifies the most important things in each section. Readers should pay attention to these when skimming a section for the first time or reviewing it later.
    The TIP icon highlights a good practice to follow or an approach that has worked successfully for us.

    We hope you find this series helpful and interesting.

    RichardA.KruegerSt. Paul, Minnesota
    DavidL.MorganPortland, Oregon

    About this Book

    We've prepared this book to raise the quality of focus group research, specifically the art of asking questions. Clear and thoughtful questions are a foundation of high-quality focus group research. About a dozen or so questions are asked during a two-hour discussion, and although these questions seem spontaneous, they are the result of considerable thought and effort.

    We wrote this book as if we were providing help to a friend. When we offer advice to friends on conducting focus groups, we get straight to the point, avoid unnecessary steps, and, above all, try to help them be successful. We try to do that here. We've also tried to make the book easy to read, easy for finding information quickly, and organized in a way that flows. We've included some tips and suggestions from other moderators that we feel are worth considering. Our only regret is that we didn't include enough humor. Try as we might, developing questions just isn't very funny. However, if you hear of a humorous story that illustrates a point included in this book, let us know, and maybe we can include it in the next edition.

    We've assumed that you will be selective with this book. We don't expect that you will read it cover to cover; however, there could be value in doing so. Most researchers, we've found, are selective in their reading, moving back and forth from one chapter to another and using examples and concepts as needed.

    This book is presented in three parts. Part I is intended as background about the questioning process. The foundational concepts presented here help readers to anchor their activities on areas of greatest importance, point out basic options on question style, and suggest a process of developing the questions. Part II gives advice on actually writing a questioning route. It is an overview of the mechanics of asking quality questions. This section gives advice on categories of questions, phrasing and sequencing the questions, the use of probes and follow-up questions, and the importance of consistency in questions. Suggestions on pilot testing are also discussed. Finally, in Part III, the reader will find an overview of questions to get participants actively engaged in a focus group discussion.

  • Appendix: Examples of Questions

    Here are some examples of questions used in focus group studies. Feel free to look over these examples and borrow words, phrases, or entire questions. These focus groups were conducted for a variety of topics, ranging from needs assessments to organizational development and evaluation.

    Training Needs of Dentists
    • Tell us your name, where you practice, and what you enjoy doing the most when you're not practicing dentistry.

    • We are here to talk about continuing education for dentists. Let's start by developing a list of those who provide continuing education. Take a few minutes and think about who provides opportunities for continuing dental education. Let's make a list of those who provide these opportunities. LIST RESPONSES ON FLIP CHART

    • How do you find out about these opportunities? FOLLOW-UP:

      • If notices come by mail, does someone in your office screen these before you see them?

      • Have you given your staff instructions about screening your mail?

      • What makes you read one piece of promotional mailing as opposed to another?

    • If you have a choice of several continuing education programs to choose from, what prompts you to register for one course over another?

      PROBES:

      Location

      Speaker

      Cost

      Sponsor

    • If you are in doubt about which course to take, what would you do in order to make the decision?

    • Think back to a continuing education course that you felt was particularly good. What made it so good?

    • Think back to a continuing education course that was disappointing to you. What made it disappointing?

    • When you hear of the university's continuing dental education program, what comes to mind?

      FOLLOW-UP:

      • How do the university's continuing education courses compare with others?

      • To what extent are these continuing education courses influenced by the image of the total university or the university school of dentistry?

    • Let's talk a bit about the topics of continuing education. At this point in your practice, what topics would be most beneficial to you. Take a moment and write down on a piece of paper several course topics that you would find helpful if offered by continuing education.

      AFTER A SHORT DELAY, SAY:

      Let's go around the table, and I will make a list of these topics.

      AFTER THE LIST HAS BEEN WRITTEN ON THE FLIP CHART, ASK:

      If you were to pick one of these as most important to you, which one would you select?

    • As you think about the next two to three years, what courses would be most helpful to you?

    • Suppose that you are in charge of continuing dental education for the university. Your job is to provide continuing courses that will be beneficial to practicing dentists and to do it in such a way that they would attend. What would you do? Let's go around the table and have each of you comment on this.

    • Our discussion tonight was to help us understand the educational needs of practicing dentists. Have we missed anything?

    Statewide Needs and the Role of the University
    • Think for a moment about the day-to-day operations of your business. What is your greatest need?

    • Where do you see your business in the next three to five years?

    • What is the biggest obstacle in getting your business where you want it to be?

    • When you hear of (name of university), what comes to mind?

    • Think back over the past decade. In what ways has (name of university) helped you individually or helped your business?

    • How would you liked to be helped by (name of university)?

    • (Name of university) is unique in our state because it is the land-grant university in our state. As a land-grant university, it has several functions, including teaching, research, and service (or outreach). Let's talk about each of these functions. How could the university help you through its teaching?

    • How could the university help you through its research?

    • How could the university help you through its outreach or service?

      MAKE A LIST OF EACH OF THESE ON A FLIP CHART, AND WHEN FINISHED, ASK QUESTION 10.

    • Take a look at the items we've listed for teaching, research, and outreach. Which one item is most important to you?

    • What changes are necessary for you to get this help from the university?

    • In what ways might you be of assistance to (name of university)?

    • Our purpose today was to … (30-second description of purpose). Have we missed anything?

    • What to you has been the most important topic that we've discussed in the past two hours?

    Local Business Needs Assessment
    • Through the media and local community contacts, we have become more aware that today's workforce is changing. What changes have you noticed within your own company or department?
    • What does your business do to provide ongoing training for your employees?
    • Based on what you are hearing from employees or supervisors, what kinds of knowledge, skills, and work habits do your employees need?
    • How is your business trying to address these needs at this time?
    • To what extent is there a gap between what training is needed and what is offered?
    • Community education provides educational opportunities that might be of benefit to your business. Here is a list of classes. Please put a check in front of those that would be of interest to you or your employees. Also, there is space at the bottom to add your own ideas or suggestions.
    • Under what circumstances would you send an employee to a community education course? Describe the person and the course.
    • What information would you need to know about potential courses and instructors to consider sending your employees to these classes?
    • For both employer and employee to be satisfied with a training session, what is needed?
    • How should we let you know about these courses?
    • In the two hours we've spent together today, of all the ideas you have heard, which one strikes you as the most relevant to your business?
    • Would you be interested in working with community education to pursue these ideas?
    Nutrition Needs Assessment

    Think about needs that relate to nutrition, food, and health.

    • What needs do you see? Let's make a list.
    • Who has these needs?
    • How many people have each need?
    • What is the severity of the need?
    • What are the consequences if the need isn't met?
    • What strengths or resources do we have that will address the need.
    • How will this change within the next three to five years?
    • What role should (name of agency) have in addressing these concerns?
    • What advice do you have for people in (name of agency) as they consider these needs?
    Role of Spiritual Community in Youth Drug and Alcohol Prevention
    • What are the most serious problems facing young people in your community?

    • How do you see tobacco, alcohol, and drug use by young people in relation to the most serious problem you cited?

    • What factors do you think protect young people from using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • In what ways does religion or spirituality protect young people?

      PROBES:

      How important are ceremonies or involvement in ritual for young people? How important is a strong inner sense of spirituality as a protecting factor? How important is regular attendance at services? How important is the practicing of religious beliefs?

    • When you get together with colleagues or friends in the spiritual community, how often does the topic of use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs by young people come up in conversation? And what is it that you talk about?

    • What do you feel is the proper role of religious organizations in preventing or responding to alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use problems by youth?

    • Has your congregation tried any specific strategies to influence or change the use of drugs by youth? If so, tell us about them.

    • Here's a list of things your organization might do. HAND OUT A LIST INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING ITEMS. Which of these would seem appropriate for your organization?

      • Sermon on drug use issues
      • Education for parents
      • Education for other adults
      • Support groups
      • Drug-free activities for youth
    • What might get in the way of your organization trying some of these strategies?

    • What help or support would you like to aid you in accomplishing any or some of the above?

    • Our purpose today was to find out more about how people in the spiritual community feel about the use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs by young people. Have we missed anything?

    Role of Parents in Youth Drug and Alcohol Prevention
    • As you think about young people and the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, what are your concerns?

    • Which of these—tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs—is of greatest concern to you? Tell us why.

    • Is there a particular age group of youth that is of special concern to you?

    • What can parents say or do that would help prevent kids from using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • Many of us have had experience talking to kids about tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs. Sometimes we feel those discussions go well, and sometimes they just don't. What works for you? What makes it go well? What doesn't work?

    • What can groups or agencies in your community do to prevent kids from having problems with tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • Parents have indicated a desire to have more support to prevent the use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs among kids. What help would you like to have available to you?

    • What changes would you like to see, if any, in media coverage of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs?

      LISTEN FOR:

      Newspapers

      Television

      Radio

      Movies

      Billboards

      Ads PROBE IF NECESSARY

    • For this next question, we'll go around the table and ask everyone to respond. Suppose only one thing could be done in this area of tobacco, alcohol, or drug prevention. You could decide what it would be. What would you pick, and why?

    • Let me summarize the key points of our discussion. Does this summary sound complete?

    • Our purpose was to learn more about how parents in this community feel about teenage tobacco, alcohol, and drug use and to get some ideas of future action. Have we missed anything? Do you have any advice for us?

    System Standards for K-12 Public Education
    • What school experience provided you with a lasting impression? Think back to an experience with school that was impressive to you, that made you proud, or that was disappointing to you. It could be as a student, a parent, a member of the community, or in another role.

    • What do you think are the purposes of school?

    • What do schools of the future need to be like to ensure the success of all learners? Describe these schools.

    • For a long time, we've determined school success by measuring those things that are relatively easy to count—attendance, classes, time in class, degrees held by teachers, or events attended by parents. Suppose, instead, that we measured success by what happens to the people—what they know or are able to do, or how they behave. What kinds of things should be measured?

    • Who needs to be involved to ensure the success of all learners? What should their role be?

      LISTEN FOR

      Teachers

      Support Staff

      Administrators

      Parents

      Students

      Community Members PROBE IF NECESSARY

    • Schools differ. Some are poor, some are average, and some are great. Think for a moment about those schools that are great. What words would you use to describe these great schools?

      MAKE A LIST OF WORDS ON A FLIP CHART.

    • What do we need to do to create schools like these great schools?

    • Do you have any suggestions for system standards?

    • Of all the topics that we've talked about today, what to you is the most important?

    • The purpose of our discussion was to identify standards that we can use to evaluate our schools. These standards will be used to help us improve the poor schools and recognize the great schools. What have we missed?

    The Role of Higher Education in the Community
    • When you hear the words higher education, what comes to mind?

    • Name the institutions of higher education in our community, and describe how they are similar or different from each other.

    • Who are the customers of higher education? Pretend that you have four boxes, and into these boxes you need to place the customers of higher education. What would you call your boxes, and what categories of customers would you have?

      PAUSE AND WAIT FOR PARTICIPANTS TO COMPLETE THEIR BOXES. WHEN THEY ARE FINISHED, HAVE EACH PERSON HOLD UP HIS OR HER LIST OF CATEGORIES.

    • Which customer category is most important to you and for what reason?

    • I'd like you to participate in a short exercise.

      Listed in the following two charts are words that might describe higher education in our community. Note that the words on the same line have opposite meanings. Place a checkmark (✓) in one of the seven spaces on each line to indicate how you feel about higher education in our community NOW Then do the rating to show how you feel higher education in the community SHOULD BE in the future.

      PAUSE AND WAIT FOR PARTICIPANTS TO FINISH.

    • Which set of words had the greatest gap between present and future? And which one is most important to you?

    • If you could redesign higher education in this community, what changes would you make?

    • As you think about higher education, what is most important to you personally?

    • Have you had any bad experiences with higher education in our community?

    • What has impressed you about higher education in our community?

    Extension Agent Training Needs on Water Quality
    • What is the foremost concern about water quality in your county?

    • Water quality concerns change over time. What do you see as water quality concerns: in the past, at present, in the future?

    • How do you identify concerns that are important to spend time on?

    • Assume that concern about water quality stays at the status quo level in your county. What do you need to do your job as an extension agent?

    • What training do you need in water quality?

    • What one thing to you would make the training a success?

    • What one thing to you would make the training a failure?

    • Training can occur in many ways through various media. In Extension, we often use lectures and workshops, but other methods, such as correspondence, interactive television, or one-to-one contact, can be used as well. How would you prefer to receive training in water quality?

    • Who should provide that training?

    • What other organizations should be involved or should assist with the training?

      LISTEN FOR:

      Units/departments within the university Units/departments at the local, state, or federal levels Other

      PROBE IF NECESSARY

    • Who should participate in the training?

    • What final suggestions do you have for those who are planning the training?

    Youth Focus Group on Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drug Prevention
    • What draws kids to tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • What helps young people stay away from tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • Which of these—tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs—is of greatest concern to you? Why?

    • Is there a particular group of youth that especially has problems with tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • What can adults say or do that would help prevent kids from using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • What is the most effective way for adults to talk to you about tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • How about parents? What is the most effective way for parents to talk to you about tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • What can kids do to prevent other kids from having problems with tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • What can groups or agencies in your community do to prevent kids from having problems with tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs?

    • For this next question, we'll go around the table and ask everyone to respond. Suppose only one thing could be done to prevent the use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs by youth. You could decide what it would be. What would you pick and why?

    • Let me summarize the key points of our discussion. GIVE A BRIEF TWO-MINUTE SUMMARY.

      Does this summary sound complete? Do you have any revisions or additions?

    Teen Pregnancy Prevention
    • Let's talk about classes where you've learned a lot. Think about these classes for a moment. What needs to happen for you to learn a lot in a class?

    • What's the most important thing a teacher can do to help students learn?

    • Let's talk about classes on sexuality. We're talking about any and all classes you've ever had in public schools that have talked about sex, including lessons as short as one period and as long as one year. Think about a time when you learned a great deal in a class on sexuality. Tell us about it.

    • What did the teacher do that helped you learn? LISTEN FOR:

      Visuals Role playing Small group projects Readings

      Library assignments Other PROBE IF NECESSARY

    • We're particularly interested in classes that help prevent teen pregnancy. Just how might a class help prevent pregnancy?

    • Tell me about classes you've had that you thought were particularly good at preventing pregnancy. What made them so good?

    • Suppose that you are the teacher of a class to prevent teen pregnancy. You want to be as successful as possible in this goal. What would you do?

    • How should a class on teen pregnancy prevention be taught differently if it includes teens of different races and cultures?

    • What role should parents play in classes on teen pregnancy prevention?

    • Our job is to find out how best to teach classes on teen pregnancy prevention in multicultural classrooms. Have we missed anything?

    Teen Violence Prevention
    • Let's name some places where you feel safe and some places where you don't feel safe.

      MAKE LISTS ON A FLIP CHART.

    • What does the word violence mean to you? or What is your definition of violence?

    • Tell me about an example of violence you've witnessed or experienced in the community?*

    • What causes violence? LISTEN FOR:

      Alcohol Drugs Bullying

      Being Abused in the Past PROBE IF NECESSARY

    • Why are some people the victims or the targets of violence?

    • What can be done to avoid being a target of violence?

    • What can you do to help someone who is a victim of violence?

    • Some people cause violence. They are violent toward others. What can youth do to help those who initiate violence?

    • What can others do to stop violence? FOLLOW-UP

      • Parents

      • School personnel

      • Police and law enforcement

      • Others

    • If you could do one thing that would reduce violence in your community, what would it be?

    • What's the most important thing we talked about today?

    *Be careful about these answers. If participants begin talking about personal family violence, you may need to remind them to keep the answers general. If you hear examples of abuse, you may be required to report them. Don't let this become a place for kids to swap scary stories of violence, but rather a forum to identify solution strategies. Celebrate the solutions, but don't emphasize the act of violence.

    Violence Prevention and Treatment for a Category of People
    • Let's talk about violence. What is it, and when does it occur?
    • How about violence toward (name of category of person)? How or when does it occur?
    • How is violence toward (name of category) similar or different from violence toward other people?
    • What's needed to prevent violence toward (name of category)?
    • What's needed to help (name of category) who experience violence?
    • What are the barriers? What gets in the way of preventing violence?
    • What are barriers to treatment, the things that get in the way after someone has experienced violence?
    • What to you are the greatest barriers?
    • What's needed to overcome these barriers?
    • What traditions and strengths do (name of category) have that will help?
    • Is there anything we've missed?
    Climate of Local High School
    • Take a piece of paper and write down three things you really like about your school. Let's make a list on the flip chart.

    • On the other side of the paper, write down three things that disappoint you about your school. Let's make a list.

    • Think back to an experience you had at school that was outstanding. Describe it.

      ENCOURAGE STORYTELLING.

    • If you were developing a report card for your school, what would be the important categories and what would be your grades?

    • What makes you proud of your school?

    • What do you like least about your school? What is disappointing to you?

    • If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?

    • Think about all that we have talked about today. What do you think is most important?

    • Let me summarize the key points. Is this summary adequate? 10. Is there anything that we've missed?

    Changing the Name of the Department
    • Think about the current name of the department. What do others say about the name of this department?
    • What are the positive aspects of the current name?
    • What are the negative aspects of the current name?
    • Two names have evolved from past discussions. They are Department of ABC and Department of XYZ. What would it take for either of these to be acceptable to you?
    • If you were deciding today on a new name for the department, what name would be your first choice, and for what reason?
    • What reservations do you have that you would like others to know about?
    • On the flip chart, I've made a list of the names that have been suggested. Use a seven-point scale and rate how much you like or dislike each choice.
    Foundation Self-Assessment
    • Think about your experiences with foundations. What comes to mind when you think of foundations?
    • Based on your experiences, what do you see as the positive things foundations have done in your community?
    • Think about what foundations could do that might be less helpful to your community. What might happen that would hinder your community or produce less than desired results? What can be done to be sure that this doesn't happen?
    • Think about how foundations might hinder or make things worse in your community. What might happen that would actually make things worse? What can be done to be sure that this doesn't happen?
    • What things are still needed in your community? We are particularly interested in those situations where foundations could be most helpful in working with your community.
    • Currently, there is a lot of discussion about balancing between immediate needs of people and a longer-term strategy of addressing root causes. Foundations, like other nonprofits and government agencies, are wrestling with how to use scarce resources most efficiently. Where in this continuum do you see local foundations landing?
    • Where should foundation priorities be placed? (NOTE: PARTICIPANTS MIGHT ACTUALLY DISCUSS SOME OF THIS IN QUESTION 6.)
    • What long-term trends or issues in your community do you see on the horizon? What role do you see for foundations?
    • After a short break, several members from the foundation community will be joining us. I will present a short summary of our discussion, and each of you is welcome to add to that summary if you like. Before we break, I would like to go around the table and ask each of you what you feel is the most important thing that we should share with these foundation staff people.
    Focus Group with Focus Group Moderators
    • What prompted you to get involved with focus groups?
    • Based on your experience, what are the major advantages and disadvantages of focus groups?
    • In what ways is the information obtained in a focus group different from that obtained using other methods, such as individual interviews, telephone interviews, or surveys?
    • What tips and advice do you have about:
      • Multiple moderators
      • In-house focus groups
      • Telephone focus groups
      • Special rooms with one-way mirrors
      • Media focus groups
      • Focus groups with sensitive topics
      • Focus groups with youth
      • Focus groups with communities of color
    • What analysis strategies have you found helpful?
    • As you reflect on what has been written about focus groups, what gaps do you see?
    • What's the future of focus groups?
    Testing the Proposal for a New Educational Effort
    • What's your first impression of the idea?
    • What are the advantages or positive aspects of the proposal?
    • What are the disadvantages or negative aspects of the proposal?
    • For the learning center to be successful, what must happen?
    • What are the next steps that we should take?
    Pilot Testing New Materials
    • Take a few moments and look over the materials. They include a brief description of a program and examples of handouts that participants would get.
    • What one thing do you like the best?
    • What one thing do you like the least?
    • If you could change one thing about the materials, what would it be?
    • What would get you to participate in this program?
    • Suppose that you were trying to encourage a friend to participate in this program. What would you say?
    • Do you have any other advice for us as we introduce this new program?
    Formative Program Evaluation
    • Tell us how you participated in the program.
    • What did you like best about the program? (What has been most helpful to you?)
    • What did you like the least about the program? (What was least helpful to you?)
    • What should be changed?
    • What should be continued just as it is now?
    • What should be continued but fine tuned?
    • What should be dropped?
    • Do you have any other advice about the program?
    Complaint System Questions
    • Can you remember a time when you were very pleased with a product or service? It could have been at a restaurant or a store, and you felt good about what happened. Tell us about it.

    • Think about the last time you complained about a product or service. Tell us what happened.

    • Have you ever thought about complaining but decided not to say anything? Tell us about it.

    • Think about service complaints in any governmental organization and in the private sector. Are complaints handled differently?

    • Think about your experiences with (name of agency). Have you ever complained or thought about making a complaint? Tell us about it.

    • Has anyone ever complained to you about some service or product you provided? What did you do about the complaint?

    • For this next question, you'll need this piece of paper. Pretend that we're putting together a report card for (name of agency). Think about the categories of complaints. What categories would be needed for the report card? Write the possible categories on the paper.

      WAIT A FEW MINUTES FOR PARTICIPANTS TO COMPLETE THEIR LISTS.

      OK, let's list your categories on the flip chart.

    • How do we encourage people or make them feel it's all right to give us feedback or to make complaints?

    • When we receive a complaint, what should be done about it?

    • What does “resolving” a complaint mean to you?

    • Think about all that we have talked about today. What do you think is most important for (name of agency) to keep doing?

    • Was the summary adequate? Have we missed anything?

    Community Assessment
    • The word community can mean a number of things. Describe your community. Who is in it? What is it like? What are its key values?

    • What are the strengths of your community?

    • How has your community changed in the past five years?

    • If someone from outside the community wanted to find out what the specific needs and assets of the community are, how would this be done? Who would be listened to? What should be looked at?

    • What traditions of giving or sharing exist within your community? (How do people help each other in your community?)

    • How about cooperation? In what ways does your community work together?

    • What are the obstacles or barriers to working together?

    • In what ways does your community work with other communities?

    • When you hear of the (name of community foundation), what comes to mind?

      PASS AROUND THE HANDOUT.

    • Think about how (name of foundation) might benefit your community. Specifically, think about things other than money. What comes to mind?

    • Think about how (name of foundation) might hinder or make things worse in your community. What might happen that would actually make things worse?

    • Our purpose in this discussion was to find out how (name of foundation) can better serve your community and people. This could occur in a variety of ways. It might mean providing people in your community with skills, expertise, money, or other forms of support. Think about what we've talked about. Have we missed anything?

    Inventory of Church Members
    • What prompted you to join (name of church)?

    • What do you expect of a church in your life?

    • To what extent has (name of church) fulfilled your expectations?

      PAUSE AND WAIT FOR RESPONSES. LISTEN FOR:

      Worship Service

      Music

      Sermons

      Communion

      Participation by Lay Members

      Special events

      Contemporary Services PROBE IF NECESSARY

    • (Name of church) has a three-pronged approach to programming. It consists of worship, education, and outreach. Let's talk about the outreach effort. What's working well? What's not working well?

    • People in crises seek support from others who might be in similar situations. What kinds of support do you feel should be available through our church?

    • In a congregation the size of (name of church), it is hard to keep everyone informed. What suggestions do you have to increase our feeling of unity?

    • What would you like to see happen in (name of church) that would really turn you on?

    • If you were to make one improvement in the church, what would it be?

    • What can you do to improve (name of church)?

    • I'd like to summarize our conversation.

      GIVE SUMMARY.

      Is this summary complete?

    Summary and Thank You

    Closing prayer

    References

    Branthwaite, A., & Lunn, T. (1985). Projective techniques in social and market research. In R.Walker (Ed.), Applied qualitative research (pp. 101–121). London: Gower.
    Chesterton, G.K. (1951). The invisible man. In The Father Brown Omnibus, p. 58. New York: Dodd, Mead.
    Glaser, B.G., & Strauss, A.L.The discovery of grounded theory. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00006199-196807000-00014
    Henderson, N.R. (1994, December). Asking effective focus group questions, Quirk's Marketing Research Review, 8 (10), especially pp. 8–9, 34–35.
    Lazarfeld, E. (1986). The art of asking why. New York: The Advertising Research Foundation. (Original work published in 1934 in The National Marketing Review)

    Index to the Focus Group Kit

    The letter preceding the page number refers to the volume, according to the following key:

    G Volume 1: The Focus Group Guidebook

    P Volume 2: Planning Focus Groups

    Q Volume 3: Developing Questions for Focus Groups

    M Volume 4: Moderating Focus Groups

    I Volume 5: Involving Community Members in Focus Groups

    A Volume 6: Analyzing and Reporting Focus Group Results

    About the Author

    Richard A. Krueger is a professor and evaluation leader at the University of Minnesota. He teaches in the College of Education and Human Development and serves as an evaluation specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Over the past decade, he has taught hundreds of people to plan, conduct, and analyze focus group interviews. He loves stories. Perhaps that is what drew him to focus group interviews. Where else can one hear so many stories in such a short period of time?


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