Focus Groups


Focus groups are small-group discussions led by a facilitator on predetermined topics of interest, in order for researchers to gain insight into the experiences and perspectives of various stakeholders. Often, community health practitioners use focus groups to understand the cultural, social, and individual factors influencing health behaviors and perceptions within a community. Focus groups are typically transcribed or recorded and then analyzed. They are a rich source of qualitative data that can help inform a collective view about a group's beliefs, attitudes, and experiences on a particular topic or issue. Focus groups are often used for community or stakeholder engagement in community assessment processes to explore perspectives, social dynamics, and insights.  


Focus groups can be part of a robust local data ecosystem, which can help to transform communities by fueling advocacy and fostering data-driven decision-making. Focus groups often engage people affected by an issue to learn about their experiences and imagine solutions— they can be especially powerful in lifting up the voices of young people in communities about issues that impact them directly, and fostering youth engagement in shaping community health initiatives. Focus group data can be combined with other qualitative and quantitative data to triangulate or examine an issue or question and paint a rich picture of the community. 


Data collection, including focus groups, has a history of being extractive and failing to benefit the people in the community upon whom the research focuses. Data have been weaponized against people and communities, perpetuating discrimination and data misuse. Of particular concern is the potential for focus group data to be used to build or reinforce false narratives about the beliefs, attitudes, and experiences of people affected by a particular issue. When done correctly, focus groups can integrate community insights and provide a comprehensive understanding for fostering effective and inclusive solutions.  


Focus groups are a widely-used data collection method and community engagement approach. Leading practices for focus groups include participant privacy, equity, accessibility, transparency, and accountability. 


Ideally, focus groups bring diverse, representative perspectives on community issues, but they are only as good as the planning and execution behind focus groups. 

Best practices that can advance an equitable approach include:

  • Recruiting participants that represent the full diversity of lived experiences

  • Paying participants for their time and sharing of lived experience

  • Scheduling focus groups in the evenings, on weekends, and at other convenient times for participants

  • Providing transportation reimbursement and childcare to participants which these are a barrier


Resources & Tools


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Brought to you by Community Commons
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Sage Data - Data Basics
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by SAGE Publications
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Toolkit for Conducting Focus Groups
Resource - Guide/handbook
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Conducting Successful Virtual Focus Groups
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First page of A Guide to Conducting Online Focus Groups guide
A Guide to Conducting Online Focus Groups
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Vital Strategies
First page of Focus Group Tip Sheet document
Focus Group Tip Sheet
Resource - Fact Sheet
Brought to you by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
First page of Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group document
Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group
Resource - Guide/handbook
Cover page of Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups document
Introduction to Conducting Focus Groups
Resource - Guide/handbook
Screen capture of Assessing Community Needs and Resources: Conducting Focus Groups
Assessing Community Needs and Resources: Conducting Focus Groups
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Brought to you by KU Center for Community Health and Development: Community Tool Box
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An Introduction to Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA)
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 09/19/2023
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Finding and Using Health Statistics
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