Focus Groups

Facilitators of focus groups require special training for leading discussions, eliciting responses and managing group dynamics. The following two sections contain guidelines for facilitators, and suggestions for a discussion guide.

Guidelines for Facilitators

  • Be balanced and impartial
  • Listen more and speak less
  • Use ACTIVE listening methods that ensure that you understand: "So, do you mean that..." "Let me see if I've understood you. You think that...."
  • Ask questions
  • Avoid interrupting or finishing a participant’s sentence or thought
  • Convince the participants that you really do want their views
  • Explain that there are no "right or wrong" answers
  • Assure the participants that you want their frank opinions and comments
  • Clarify anything you don't understand ("Why is that...?")
  • Use summary methods to make sure you understand the general feeling of the participants: Is this the situation? Some of the group feel that * but the majority think * etc.
  • Pursue points until you understand why some participants feel the way they do
  • Promote discussion by asking participants to respond to another's comments and by referring back to previous statements
  • Be a "devil's advocate" by providing alternative points of view or suggestions to test reaction

The Discussion Guide

The discussion guide in a focus group is just that—a guide to the facilitator to use to prompt discussion not to follow as if delivering a questionnaire. To develop a focus group discussion guide, it is helpful to list the broad areas of focus (eg., ‘comprehension’) or specific feature components (eg., music, etc.) then list associated ideas. For example:

Focal areas

  • Associated ideas


  • What words or ideas were not understood?
  • How well do the thoughts flow clearly?
  • What appear to be the objectives of the program? How well does the program achieve them? Could anything else be done?
  • How practical are the suggestions, lessons, advice for the listener?
  • What other ideas, themes, suggestions, advice, implications have been left out and which should be included?


  • What was most interesting? How interesting or important is this topic (or feature) likely to be to our listeners?
  • How does this program acknowledge the questions and problems and difficulties that are likely to be in the listener's mind?


  • What was liked? What was not liked? Was there anything that may have offended anyone?

Key message

  • What was the most important thing to remember from this program? (Ask specific questions related to the key message such as, What were the instructions for preparing Oral Rehydration Solution? Etc.)


  • Appropriate?

Framing of the message

  • How accurate is this program in providing a picture of what really happens?
  • What content shows that there is enough/not enough research about the topic?
  • What illustrations or scenes or presenters/characters are suitable and which are not?
  • How creative or imaginative was this program? How could it be made more creative or imaginative?


  • Give examples of unsatisfactory technical quality.

Recommendations for change

  • Give examples of unsatisfactory elements
  • What could be done to improve this program?