Data From a Focus Group

Data From a Focus Group

The focus of this module is how to analyze the data collected from a focus group interview.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the steps in the data analysis process for focus group data
  • Describe how to analyze data and categorize the information
  • Explain how focus group data is interpreted
  • List guidelines when reporting focus group results


The Process of Analyzing Focus Group Data

  • Immediately following the focus group session: The moderator and the assistant moderator should begin with a debriefing where they are able to compare impressions and make additional notes while thoughts are still fresh in their minds. The recording should be checked to ensure that it operated properly and a copy of the recording should be made. Recording and notes should be labeled. Clean up transcripts by getting rid of nonessential words that do not add meaning.
  • Begin data analysis: Start by getting to know the data. Listen to the recordings and transcribe them if necessary. Make note of the respondents tone, reluctance, enthusiasm and so forth as listening and/or transcribing. It may be important to review the goals of the project or research to help focus on important data during the review.
  • Organize the data: After reviewing the data as whole, it is necessary to begin organizing the data. Start by identifying concepts, trends, themes, behaviors, terminology, or phrases and assigning codes to those pieces of data. For example, if the focus group topic was barriers to regular exercise, the researcher may identify common themes in responses such as lack of time, lack of energy, lack of resources, lack of knowledge about exercise and so on. As the data is being reviewed, each response may be coded as to help categorize the responses into those themes. This can be done effectively using a spreadsheet or color coding of notes.
  • Identify patterns and connections: During the process of organizing the data, the researcher should be watching for patterns, connections, relationships, and themes that will develop within the data. For example, connections may arise when one category is nearly always found in conjunction with another category of responses. These themes may be found consistently together and may even warrant being combined into a single category. This type of data re-adjustment is to be expected as the data is examined more thoroughly.
  • Synthesize and combine related pieces of data: Take related pieces of data or categories and synthesize them, adding detailed information and quotes from the transcripts.
  • Interpret the data: The interpretation of the data actually occurs along continuum throughout the process. It begins with the raw data which is the exact comments of the respondents. Then there is the descriptive data from the analysis and synthesis of the raw data and finally, the data is interpreted in its entirety and conclusions are made. During the interpretation phase, the analyst should provide meaning and understanding to the data. This qualitative type of analysis and interpretation of focus group data is not meant to result in broad generalizations. It is meant to provide subjective insight into the perspectives of the participants of the focus group, with some consideration to how their thoughts and perceptions may be applied to a larger population. The interpretation should identify the most important aspects of the data, the main points, and what new information has been learned. The interpretation is sometimes best expressed through the use of case study examples, models, arrow diagrams and other methods of displaying the results.
  • Write the report: Begin by considering the audience the purpose of sharing the results and use language in the report that is appropriate for that target audience. The main purpose of the report is to communicate the results in an organized fashion that represents the responses as truthfully and accurately as possible. Quotes are helpful to illustrate points and add validity to the report. The report may be structured so that it goes through the focus group interview question by question or it may be focused on the themes that emerged from the process. This type of report is commonly written in narrative style.

The following YouTube video, Qualitative Analysis of Interview Data: A Step by Step Guide, provides an overview of the process of analyzing focus group data.


Suggested Readings

Bertrand, J. T., Brown, J. E., & Ward, V. M. (1992). Techniques for analyzing focus group data. Evaluation review, 16(2), 198-209.
Bloor, M. (2001). Focus groups in social research. Sage.
Gibbs, A. (1997). Focus groups. Social research update, 19(8), 1-8.
Kamberelis, G., & Dimitriadis, G. (2005). Focus groups. The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research-Third Edition. Sage Publications, 20020, 887-908.
Kitzinger, J. (1994). The methodology of focus groups: the importance of interaction between research participants. Sociology of health and illness, 16(1), 103-121.
Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2009). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Sage.
Krueger, R. A. (1997). Analyzing and reporting focus group results (Vol. 6). Sage publications.
Litosseliti, L. (2003). Using focus groups in research. A&C Black.
Morgan, D. L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research (Vol. 16). Sage.
Morgan, D. L. (1996). Focus groups. Annual review of sociology, 129-152.
Sim, J. (1998). Collecting and analysing qualitative data: issues raised by the focus group. Journal of advanced nursing, 28(2), 345-352.
Verd, J. M. (2004). Qualitative research methods.

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