Wednesday, January 7, 2015

5 Do's and Don'ts for Recording a Perfect Focus Group Discussion

A focus group is a qualitative research method in which a group of people is lead by a moderator/facilitator in a specific discussion, in order to obtain important information and opinions about different themes, products and concepts.Focus groups can generate a ton of irreplaceable information and insights, that will later be analyzed and used in crucial decision-making processes. However, at the time of the discussion, it's impossible to know when the most valuable information will come up, so it's essential to record it all. There are a few tips and things to consider to record a perfect focus group discussion for academic purposes:

1. Be Careful with Background Noise

When choosing the venue for the focus group discussions try to avoid public and open places where external sounds may interfere with the discussion and reduce dramatically the recording quality. Even a loud air conditioner can create a terrible effect, so run tests first and make sure there are no unexpected noises that can negatively affect the interviews. 

It's important to avoid small ambient noises, such as people clicking pens, rustling papers or drumming their fingers on the table. The moderator must also ensure there are no side conversations, indistinct mumbling or even laughter between participants. In order to obtain perfect recordings, people must be instructed to speak one at a time and respect others interviewee's answers. 

2. Microphone and Recorder Position

Most times, placing a single recorder in the middle of the room will cause problems and make it difficult to completely understand what everyone is saying. Especially when dealing with a larger group or a place that's not fully isolated, the key is to use individual microphones placed as close to the speaker as possible. Lapel microphones can be an interesting option. If necessary, the moderator shouldn't hesitate to repeat, in a loud and clear form, an important sentence that was hard to understand. If people in the focus group didn't hear it perfectly, chances are the recording won't be able to do it either.

3. Recording Settings

Pay attention to the format the conversation is being recorded in, to make sure it will match the ones used by transcription companies. Some equipment may use formats that will result in large, hard to send files, so always check to guarantee you know what the outcome will be. Remember to set the recorder with the highest recording quality possible. Different recorders may also offer extras like "noise reduction" settings, but there seem to be mixed reviews regarding this possibility, so always test first to see if that will work for your recording goals. It's important to be prepared for any unexpected situations, so don't forget to bring things like power adapters and a spare recorder battery.

4. Use Both Recording Devices and Note Takers

It's recommended to stay away from cassette tape recorders and upgrade to digital recording devices, which provide durable, safe, easy to control and exchange files. While the need for recording is truly undeniable, it's also interesting to use note takers to document extra details the audio can't get. Extensive hand-written or typed notes will not only contain the whole discussion, but also important observations on non-verbal behavior, such as facial expressions, hand and body movements and group dynamics and interactions as a whole.

5. Use Transcription Services

Transcribing focus group discussion is not an easy task, so after recording it's recommended to use a trustworthy transcription company to have all the data properly transcribed.For the user, the process can be as simple as uploading the audio file into the company's website and just waiting for the transcribed documents to be sent back. They can provide an accurate and reliable transcription for your audio files, offering confidentiality and security, with a fast turnaround of transcribed files. In some situations it's even possible to request extras like speaker identification, which may come in handy for some focus group discussions.

Focus groups are an amazing opportunity to gather extremely important information. Can you imagine having a great discussion only to later find out that the whole conversation is inaudible? With proper recording and transcription, it will be much easier to organize all the collected data.In order to guarantee the very best a focus group discussion has to offer, it's essential to carefully plan and execute the most adequate recording process for each situation. After recording, using a fast and reliable transcription service will provide a better way to document, analyze and safely store all the information, making sure the focus group will achieve its primary goal with great success.

Recommended Reading: How to transcribe academic and thesis research interviews?

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