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A debrief is a meeting that is held after each focus group to discuss all aspects of the session. The debrief is a very useful activity to include in the focus group session. It is very tempting to limit the debrief sessions to a minimum, but it is extremely useful in evaluating the quality of the session, improving the skills of the team, checking the responses, and designing further question guides or changing question lines.
14.2 The field debrief
This is a very short meeting that is held immediately after the focus group while the team is still in the field. It should be conducted away from the site of the focus group. As people will be rather tired after the session, do not expect the team to be able to give more than 15 minutes concentration time to the field debrief. This meeting should only be used for clearing up any confusion that a team member thinks may be forgotten by the time the full debrief session is held.
14.3 The full focus group debrief
You may need two hours for the debriefing of each focus group, especially in the early part of a project. All team members should be present for this meeting. If you are using interpreters, it is especially important that they attend as they can provide a lot of guidance to the research team. They have often noticed things during the session that have not actually been recorded that may be of use. They can also clarify questions about responses that were recorded by the observer.
If tape recordings are to be transcribed, then they will not be available for the debriefing session. For this reason, you will need to rely on the notes taken by the observer. Use these notes to check whether the focus group discussions are providing you with the information that you require to meet the objectives.
It is quite useful to have a meeting agenda prepared so that you can go through the many aspects of the focus group discussions thoroughly. It is easy to forget all the different parts that need to be discussed, so if you are working with a list of things to cover, the meeting will be more productive. You should design your own agenda, but be sure to include specific points in the following main areas:
Practical/logistical aspects of the focus group session (including equipment).
Team skills and performance.
Wording and comprehension of the questions.
Information required by objectives being obtained.
Cultural appropriateness of the session.
In larger projects where distances
have to be travelled, a focus group session can take up a half day. In this case, it may
be useful to have your focus group sessions in the afternoon and your debrief the
following morning. Often if your team members are tired after a session, then holding the
major debrief the same afternoon may not be wise. You do not want to rush the debrief as
the information that the whole team can provide is very valuable, and may improve the
standard of your focus groups quite a lot.
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