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Contents | 1. Essence | 2. Aproaches | 3. Process | 4. Measuring outcomes | 5. Paradoxes
6. Examples | 7. Jargon | 8. Checklist | 9. Practice tips | 10. Resources


9. Practice tips

A. Thinking about

B. Framing an

C. Evaluation
     report outline

D. Model of service
E. Community

F. Peer review
G. Focus groups
H. Telling stories
I. Staff time use
J. Questionnaires


G. Focus groups

Focus groups are likely to be a strategy in evaluating many larger projects. This tool provides tips for using focus groups effectively.

A focus group is another name for a group interview or group discussion where the focus is on a particular issue of interest.

Focus groups usually have 6 to 10 people who discuss a topic (with a facilitator who is often called a moderator).

Focus groups explores issues. (If one is interested in how many people have a particular view about an issue a survey is the appropriate tool.)

Focus groups can range from the very informal to the very formal.

  • A group of parents may meet after school with a staff member to explore an issue at the school. The staff member facilitates and takes notes.
  • A group of clients are invited to come to a meeting to explore how a service can be improved. An independent facilitator runs the meeting and takes notes of issues emerging.
  • A group of older unemployed people are brought together to explore the unemployment for older people. They are paid for their time. An independent facilitator runs the meeting. A scribe records the discussion. The meeting is recorded and transcripts are made an analysed.

In informal focus groups the key ideas to emerge might be noted by the facilitator (but there might not be a formal report).

In more formal focus groups the conversation may be recorded, transcripts made and analysed; and a detailed report written.

Informal focus groups are common in community organisations undertaking planning and evaluation of services and projects.

The focus group

Key questions to consider in planning a focus group:

  • What is the purpose of the group?
  • What are issues to be explored?
  • What are the questions that will be asked in the group?
  • Who will attend?
  • Where will the meeting be held?
  • Who will facilitate?
  • How will ideas and issues emerging be recorded?
  • How will the discussion be analysed?
  • What kind of report is required? How will it be used?

Tips and skills

Some tips:

  • Get an external facilitator where you are asking clients or staff questions about the quality of services
  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Avoid dichotomous questions

Skills: see Facilitation


Some useful books are:

Focus Groups : A Practical Guide for Applied Research: Third Edition
Richard A Krueger, Mary Anne Casey
2000 Sage Publications

Doing Focus Group
The Sage Qualitative Research Kit
Rosaline Barbour

Sage 2007