Accessibility Version | Skip to content | Change text size

Table of contents

Previous page  | Next page

How to conduct a focus group

A research interview may be conducted with one individual, or you may interview a group of people at the same time. One form of group interview is a focus group .

  • A focus group differs from a other group interviews in that it allows less freedom for open responses. It centers around a particular topic and the questions are closely focussed on the topic of discussion.
  • The focus group session begins in a general manner, allowing respondents to establish a measure of rapport and comfort, and share some basic information. Then, as the session progresses, the questions become more specific.
  • To become a good moderator for a focus group you will need to have highly developed interpersonal skills and good leadership ability.
  • At the start of the session, you will need to be friendly, polite and professional, establishing rapport with participants and encouraging a comfortable, non-threatening, sharing environment.
  • Look at your participants, and introduce yourself in a friendly way. Project your voice loudly and clearly and speak in a deliberate manner so that you can be heard and understood easily.
  • Plan a couple of introductory sentences to put your participants at ease and gain trust.
  • When you pose the first general question, you may like to answer it as well, to start the responses. This will give you an opportunity to self-disclose in some small way, and take on a human and empathic persona for the respondents. In this way you become a part of the group.
  • You will need to be skilled at asking questions, encouraging each participant to respond, probing for further information, and searching for differences in responses. Practise asking the questions, putting the emphasis on different words.You will need to take control of the session in a pleasant and friendly way, not allowing one person to dominate, and encouraging more reluctant participants to voice their responses. As the moderator you will have to ensure that the interview session remains focussed on the main issue, and that participants keep to the topic.
  • The aim of the session is not to unify thinking and get consensus. It is to gather data. Hence the moderator needs to be objective, approving enough to put participants at ease and ensure that each member of the group is comfortable to respond, but not affirming of any particular perspective. It is important to be non-judgmental, so that different perspectives can be shared.
  • Participants in the focus group interact with each other, and often the sharing can generate new ideas and new ways of thinking about an issue. It is an interactive experience. Ideally, participants in a focus group should have some commonality, to facilitate disclosures.
download a word document Download a printable version of this page.
Problems? Questions? Comments? Please provide us feedback.

Need help? Library frequently asked questions and online inquiries: current students/staff | public users, online chat, or phone +61 3 9905 5054
Something to say? Send us your feedback and suggestions: current students/staff | public users

Monash University logo