Friday, March 25, 2011

Things to Consider in Developing Questions for Focused Group Discussions

I have been a participant in FGD’s or Focus Group Discussions before and what I liked about this research tool is that the moderator asks questions that required the participants to explain; enumerate and describe their personal experiences.

On the other hand, when it was my turn to become an FGD moderator, the first thing that entered my mind was “How do I start making the questions for my research?” “What questions should I ask?” and “How will I know if the questions I am asking will be relevant to my research?”

These questions stumped me and for some time I don’t know where to start and so after I got hold of Richard Krueger’s Focus Group Kit, I somehow started having an idea how to conduct an FGD.

Before we start in developing questions, Krueger said that there are certain principles that the soon-to-be moderators have to keep in mind in developing Focus Group (FG) questions:

1. Questions have to be asked in a conversational manner.

As I’ve mentioned in my experience participating in FGD’s before, all questions were delivered in a conversational manner allowing the participants to feel more relaxed instead of being in a hot seat. In my observation, it also helped if the moderator will say some assurance at the beginning of the session that there is no “right or wrong answer” and that all answers are accepted and that the participant should not worry of impressing or disappointing the moderator or his or her fellow participants.

2. Questions have to be clear, concise and reasonable.

I guess any question whether or not its an FGD question should be clear and concise so that the participant can understand how to answer the question fully. How to ask questions properly can even be offered as a seminar to develop what others call the “Art of Questioning”. Using this art, the researcher will be able to draw out the answers from his respondents smoothly and properly.
However, what does it mean by reasonable questions? Krueger mentioned three aspects of a clear question:

a. Questions have to short so that the respondent can get to the intent of the question right away.
b. Questions should be unidimensional meaning avoid combining words in a question that may have more than one meaning or interpretation. For example, the words “useful” and “practical” may mean the same to you but it can be two different concepts to the respondent. To explain further “an educational program maybe useful but not practical because of money or time constraints. That’s why a question stated as “Is this educational program useful and practical to you” can actually be split into two questions “Is this educational program useful to you?” and Is this educational program practical for you?”

c. Wordings should be understandable by avoiding acronyms, jargons and technical language.

3. Consider other researchers or participants’ help in developing quality FG (Focus Group) Questions
From what I understand here what the moderator can do is to ask fellow researchers or people similar to the participant to give their opinion about the questions. For example, “Were the questions clear for them? Did any of the questions confuse them? What was their impression when they first heard the question? Are the questions too lengthy? Too short? Or Just rght? If they think something has to be improved about how the questions are presented what will it be and why?

4. Give yourself sufficient time to develop quality FG questions

They say if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Developing FG questions takes time to plan, revise and edit. By they time the respondents have heard the question, they might think that these questions were just natural questions to ask. On the other hand, you know that if these questions were real products then they have passed several quality checks dozens of times by revisions which took days and maybe even weeks for those quality FG questions to be produced.

After reading the four principles mentioned in this article, I still didn’t know how to make the questions I need for my research. However, now I know what they shouldn’t look like. In my next post I will talk about whether to use a topic guide or a detailed questioning route in developing quality FG questions.

Krueger, Richard, 1998. Developing Questions for Focus Groups. SAGE Publications.

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