Lessons from My First Focus Group

By Ksenia Varlyguina, MPH ’12 in Population and Family Health

I didn’t sleep well the night before. It felt like Christmas. Three times I had gone over the focus group guide with my local version of Linda Cushman (She’s the Mailman School’s qualitative research guru, and winner of several teaching awards). We were playing with the order of the questions, the wording, the probes. Key stakeholders had reviewed the guide, suggested edits, reworded questions. I reviewed my Research Design and Data Collection class notes.

The table was set with pencils, paper, and name tags. I had my consent forms, focus group guide, and pen. The two digital recorders had fresh batteries and had been checked. The large butcher paper and markers were at the ready. The corner table had drinking water and glasses. My assistant had been prepped.

I was ready.

Take a seat wherever you’d like.

It was 3 pm. Then 3:05. I started fiddling with the chairs, name tags, recorders. I went to ask the front desk if my participants had arrived, if they were in that day, if we could call them. At 3:10, four out of six had arrived. The other two weren’t available. We went on without them. Sometimes I was flustered, awkward, spoke too fast. Overall, it was okay. We laughed. We understood each other. It felt like teaching, like presenting, like interviewing. All these things I like to do, mixed together.

View Ksenia’s previous post, My Orientation- Working with and for Women in Bogotá, or read her personal blog for more about her adventures.

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