3.2.5 Planning and Conducting Interviews and Focus Groups

Once you have your questions determined, it is time to plan for your interviews or focus groups. Follow the tips below to ensure success:

Interviews

Planning

  • Give people enough notice of the interview (e.g., at least 7 days would be best); give them a choice of days if you can
  • Ensure that you have a confidential space to talk
  • Consider if you can offer an honorarium for people’s time
  • Give the option of doing the interview on the phone or in-person if at all possible

Conducting

  • Start by reviewing:
    • The goals of the evaluation
    • How they were selected
    • Confidentiality protocols
    • Data protocols
  • Get consent forms signed
  • Check-in during the interview if people need a break or if they have any questions about the interview itself
Focus Groups

Planning

  • Give people enough notice of the focus group (e.g., at least 7 days would be best); give them a choice of days if you can
  • Ensure that you have a confidential space to talk
  • Consider if you can offer an honorarium for people’s time
  • Offer tokens for travel, tea, child care if possible

Conducting

  • Start by reviewing:
    • The goals of the evaluation
    • How they were selected
    • Confidentiality protocols
    • Data protocols
  • Get consent forms signed
  • Check-in during the focus group if people need a break or if they have any questions about the focus group itself
  • Go over ground rules, which are rules you ask people to agree to in order to make the discussion as productive and respectful as possible. Some examples of ground rules include:
    • Respectful Listening
    • No interruptions
    • No racist, sexist or homophobic comments
    • Keep everyone’s information confidential
    • No need for consensus but important to disagree with respect (using “I” statements)
    • Cell phones off or on vibrate
  • Try to support everyone to speak – gently ask others their ideas and thoughts if one person is dominating the conversation; stay silent when you ask the question to give people a chance to give their responses
  • Go over logistics – how long group will last, bathrooms, fire exits, any planned breaks
AND!
  • Keep track of which questions have and have not been asked and answered
  • Know how to phrase questions that encourage participants to provide elaborate, detailed (rather than brief) responses
  • Ask questions that elicit participant’s own views and experiences as opposed to reflecting the convictions of the interviewer/facilitator
  • Ask one question at a time, verifying unclear responses
  • Use follow-ups and probes
  • Remain neutral by asking open-ended questions and avoiding leading questions
Don’t Ask… Do Ask…
“Why do you need places of worship on campus?” “Tell me more about your last comment about the lack of faith-based spaces on campus”
“How did you handle when things got tough before?” “Can you give me an example of what you just said about not knowing how to handle it when things get tough at school?”
“Did you not have those abilities to cope in the past?” “In what ways did you feel like you had more ability to cope?”
“Are you stressed all the time?” “At what time during your school experience do you have the feelings of stress you just mentioned?”
Case Example 6

Onye is a student leader at Threerivers College and is very passionate about women’s mental health on campus. She volunteers with the Maya Women’s Health Clinic in her community and has spearheaded a partnership with the Clinic and the Campus Safety Office to develop a poster campaign specifically promoting women’s mental health.

The campaign is officially run by the Campus Safety Office and calls attention to the mental health stresses disproportionately faced by women such as sexual harassment and low body image or self-esteem. Onye was actively involved in developing the campaign and promoting it on campus through student groups, social clubs and student residences. One year later the Campus Safety Office is undertaking a combination of a process and outcome evaluation of the campaign and has reached out to Onye as a key stakeholder. She is helping the lead evaluator with their data collection efforts. The Safety Office is looking to collect information that can answer the following evaluation questions:

  1. How did female students on campus respond to the poster? Did they feel like the message resonated with them?
  2. Did the poster result in dialogue on female mental health, sexual harassment and/or other issues disproportionately faced by women on campus?
  3. Has the poster campaign increased awareness of the issues female students struggle with on campus and how these issues affect their mental health?
  4. How effective and/or useful has the partnership between the Maya Women’s Health Clinic and the Campus Safety Office been in running the poster campaign?
  5. How has the poster campaign effected the general student population on campus regardless of gender?

Onye and the lead evaluator have determined that they will need to collect a mix of qualitative and quantitative data to help answer these questions.

Consider the following:

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