Craig Berman reports:
"Focus groups can be an ideal way for a business or institution to get information from members of their target market and generate ideas for more detailed research going forward. A moderator’s guide serves as the outline of what the groups will discuss, and is usually written as a collaborative process between the moderator and the stakeholders to ensure that the desired information is collected...Moderating a focus group is a challenging task, which is why most moderators make sure to have a guide completed beforehand...[I]t is critical to make sure every session is conducted in a similar fashion to create consistency and generate statistically valid results, as well as to clarify the topics and questions to be discussed. While moderators may be flexible in teasing out information depending on individual group composition, the structure presented by the guide is a road map to keep discussions on-topic and the event moving on schedule...The first part of the focus group moderator’s guide should provide the background information needed to conduct the interview. Start with the research objectives. Placing them in a prominent position reminds both the moderator and any other readers what the focus group is designed to answer. After that, write a description of the respondents’ profiles and the interview logistics, which is important because it provides background and context and may be useful for confirming details later...The introduction describes how you want the moderator to introduce herself and inform the focus group members of what they can expect over the course of the session. Have the moderator tell the audience the general purpose of the session, remind them of the incentive that they are receiving for participation, discuss any administrative details and detail the level of confidentiality. Also have the moderator establish the rules of the discussion...List the three to five topics that you expect the moderator to cover, and the amount of time devoted to each topic. For a typical 90-minute session, that is the amount of material that can be covered comfortably and comprehensively. It’s best to begin with a general topic to generate discussion before getting into more specific material to make sure the participants are comfortable speaking in front of the rest of the group and to get them accustomed to participating...Write a list of questions to be answered for each topic. In general, ask behavior questions before attitude questions, positive before negative, unaided before aided. It is also helpful to include probes, short comments or questions that can be used to further explore desired topics or stimulate discussion. Wrap up sessions by asking if there was anything the moderator missed that they would like to talk about...Once the draft of the moderator guide is finished, it should be reviewed by stakeholders to assess whether any changes need to be made in the content or format. This interactive process ensures that there will be no miscommunication about what the groups intend to measure, and gives everyone an understanding of what will take place."
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