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Focus Groups Guide

Part 7 Appendix One: Focus Group Preparation Checklist

Developing Your Questions

  • Determine the research goals, the purpose, and desired outcomes
  • Create a moderator guide with introduction and questions
  • Design questions to begin with broad (often autobiographical) question to allow each individual to contribute
  • Order questions from general to specific and from positive to negative
  • Test your guide — run a practice focus group

Recruitment and Planning

  • Identify a room/space to use and decide on date and time
  • Define your target — Who do you need to talk to in order to answer your questions and/or to explore and discover new insights?
  • Design outreach to avoid recruitment bias
  • Define and acquire incentives (gift card, etc.) for participating
  • Create a registration page — consider all fields you need
  • Produce and deploy promotional materials — ads, postings, emails, etc.
  • Use a random number generator to select participants
  • Invite 12 people for a focus group of 8–10 to account for no-shows

Day-of Logistics

  • Reminder email sent with date/time, directions, parking information, and contact number
  • Directional signs (including tape or easel for posting)
  • Check on proper arrangement of table(s) and correct number of chairs for each session
  • Sign-in list/list of participants
  • Parking validation for participants, if needed
  • Name tags and/or a name plates for participants
  • Markers/pens and notepads for participants
  • Consent forms for interview/taping permissions, if required
  • Compensation and receipts, if needed
  • Water for participants and moderator
  • Copies of focus group questionnaire guide for moderator and assistants
  • Computer/notepad for note-taking for assistants
  • Audio recorder with extra batteries (may need two recorders depending on size of table/group)


  • Create a welcoming environment
  • Seat staff strategically
  • Request that all staff participate fully
  • Use introductions to make people feel comfortable
  • Value all interactions
  • Manage conflict when it arises without devaluing people’s input

Data Analysis and Use

  • Transcribe the focus groups
  • Code the feedback in the transcription, looking for themes
  • Create a narrative of what you learned
  • Convene newsroom stakeholders to share the data
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