Discussion Groups

Discussion Groups

Discussion Groups are one-time, highly facilitated small group discussions that typically consist of five to ten individuals who are representative of the population that experiential knowledge is sought. Individuals in the group focus on one research decision (whether it be research priorities, questions, design, data collection approaches, outcomes measures, interpreting or dissemination of research findings). It is common to record the session using audio or video recorders, and then transcribe it into narrative data.

Discussion Groups can be useful for:

  • Identifying public opinion and encouraging open public debate around certain research decisions (e.g. What should be the research priority? What should be our research question? How should we collect the data? What outcome measures should we be looking at? What does the data mean to you? How should we share the research findings?).
  • Providing opportunities for engagement of voices traditionally less heard in health research.
  • Providing insightful information for the evaluation of the research project.
  • Using previously analyzed data to generate alternate interpretations.


Note: It is a good idea to have a trained facilitator lead the discussion group. You will need to use qualitative analysis to interpret the outcomes of the discussion group in order to help inform research decisions.


Additional Resources

1. Conducting a Focus Group: Community Toolbox

2. Conducting a Focus Group: How to Get Started



1. Interpretive focus groups: a participatory method of interpreting and extending secondary analysis of qualitative data

2. Focus groups with young people: a participatory approach to research planning