Focus groups


Brief Description (including a definition if possible)

A group of usually 7-10 people selected to engage in discussions designed for the purpose of sharing insights and observations, obtaining perceptions or opinions, suggesting ideas, or recommending actions on a topic of concern. A focus group discussion is a method of collecting data for monitoring and evaluation purposes.

When to use

  • quick method;
  • helpful for collecting information on the group's attitude on a given subject, that would be difficult to obtain without interaction;
  • useful for eliciting information on the characteristics of conversation.

In evaluation, focus groups have been used for purposes of:
  1. Understanding a problem, situation or programme from the perspective of a certain group. Any understanding stemming from the focus group discussion may be used to develop a programme logic model or help gain insight into various perceptions on a given topic.
  2. Pilot testing programme ideas, services or policies
(source: UNITAR learning & training wiki: Focus groups)

How to use

  • Focus Groups can be effective only with a skilled moderator, who has to balance the freedom and spontaneity of the conversation against the focus on the topic.
  • Participants' answers are influenced by the social environment: in order to avoid conflict, their attitude is usually more polite and moderate compared to what they would show in one-to-one interviews.
  • It is difficult to generalize Focus Groups' output, since the number of participants is not large enough to be representative of the whole population.
  • Group should be composed by people who are similar, in order to limit the self-censorship. Hence, to collect data on persons with different characteristics it is necessary to run multiple focus group sessions.
  • Results are difficult to analyse because sessions must be audio taped and transcribed and because the issue is influenced by the moderator, who participates in the session too.
(source: UNITAR learning & training wiki: Focus groups)

Preparing a Focus Group

  1. Identify the main goal of the focus groups.
  2. Select 6-10 participants (they should have strong feelings about the issue to be discussed and also have similar characteristics, such as the same age or the same status).
  3. Avoid involving friends in the same session, since they can form cliques.
  4. Plan your session (consider that the meeting should last 1.5 hours approximately).
  5. Phrase five to six open and neutral questions to ask the participants (be careful to formulate them in a language the participants are familiar with).
  6. Send the participants an invitation explaining the goal of the meeting, the proposed agenda, the main issue to be discussed and the related questions.
  7. Set a quite room and arrange the chairs in a circle (if possible, around a table).
  8. Plan to record the session (using audio/audio-video recorder) or ask a co-facilitator to take notes during the meeting.

Running Focus Group

  1. Welcome the participants.
  2. Ask the participants to introduce themselves and, eventually, to wear name tags.
  3. Review the agenda.
  4. Introduce the main goal of the meeting.
  5. Ask the questions you have prepared and reflect back a summary of participants’ answers.
  6. Ensure balanced participation: if there is somebody dominating the session, invite participants to speak in turn; respect participants’ right to be silent but give them the chance to express themselves in a one-to-one context (for instance, during a break).
  7. Let disagreements arise, since they can lead to interesting and innovative ideas, but be careful in managing them.
  8. Avoid sharing your personal opinion with the group.
  9. Keep the discussion on track.
(source: UNITAR learning & training wiki: Focus groups)

Tips and Lessons Learnt

(add yours)

Examples & Stories

(add your story)

Who can tell me more?

  • (add your name/contact email)



Related Methods / Tools / Practices



Resources (add your resources)


Keywords, Tags


Photo or image credits

If you included any photos or images, please put the source or photo credit here

Page Authors

If you started this page or made a contribution and would like visibility (and recognition) for your work, sign your name here!