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Focus Groups as a Research Method: Hear From a Variety of Voices, Explore New Ideas, Gain Clarity and Draw Conclusions


Data Reporting
 

If you have made it this far, congratulations! But too often, organizations and individuals conduct important research, while their findings end up stuffed away in an office drawer and have little impact on their organization or on others.  Here are a few basic tips on ways to draw attention to the results of your hard work. 

With focus groups, it is often a good idea to write a few different types of reflections that together can lead to a solid final report.  Immediately after the group is held – within a day or two, or if possible within a few hours – you should try to write down your basic reflections of the group(s) and the main themes that emerged.  You can use any notes that were taken during the group to help this.  Then, once you have had a chance to look over the transcripts or recordings and develop your thematic codes, you should write a more in-depth “top-line report” that outlines the major themes and goes deeper into comparing and contrasting the groups.  A few pages is long enough for this top-line report.  For some, this might be enough work on the focus groups for now, especially if you are combining those findings with research from other methods, like a survey or individual interviews.  But if you want to work on a more substantive report – using just the focus group findings or combining those findings with your other methods – follow the directions below.

After all of the work that you have put into your research, from conceptualizing a research question to analyzing your data, be sure to write it all down.  Working on a document that details the entire process helps the researcher better understand their findings, and is the first way to inform others about what you have learned. It is also useful when you are seeking out future funding or trying to demonstrate to potential partners the kind of work that you do. When possible, a report should have a nice graphic layout  and should be made available both in print and on the internet. 

 

Writing up a final report is not the end of reporting your results!  Think about other types of presentations for your findings. 

Here are just a few examples:

  • You can create a brochure about your study and its findings.
  • You can you hold a community meeting where you can present your study and engage in a discussion with community members.
  • You can promote your findings using social media outlets, like Facebook or Twitter.  You could also record video of your presentations and post it on YouTube or other social media sites.
  • You can contact local news media to bring attention to your findings. 
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There are a number of different ways you can go about organizing a final report of document, but here is a suggested outline:


Opening Section
  1. Title Page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Abstract or Executive Summary

 An abstract is a brief summation of your project – usually no longer than one paragraph – that states the research question, the method used, and a few of the main findings.  It should be clear and extremely concise.

An Executive Summary is more in-depth than an abstract – usually two to three pages – and mirrors the contents of your larger report.  The executive summary should include a brief introduction, description of your method and a few main findings, followed by a brief discussion that highlights important things learned and directions for future research or action.  The executive summary should be easy to read and engaging.  The executive summary should be able to stand on its own, since many people will not read the entire report.  You might even want to distribute these executive summaries as a separate document to certain individuals or organizations who prefer a shorter format.


Body of the Report

   1. Introduction

  • The introduction should outline the problem and research question you were interested in, discussing its significance and any historical background that the reader should know.  If you had any hypotheses going into the research study, you would state these here.    

   2. Previous Research

  • In this section, you would report findings from any literature review you conducted during your process that were relevant to the work that you conducted.  If other researchers had conducted similar work on your research question at a previous time, this would be the place to discuss that and explain how their work helped shape your own study.

   3.  Methodology

  • Here is where you describe the main points of how you conducted your research.  Explain what kind of data you collected, who collected the data, and how participants were recruited. 

   4. Results and Analysis

  • This section is where you report the findings of your research.  Use tables and charts where appropriate.  If you conducted any statistical tests, report the results of those findings here.

   5. Discussion and Conclusions

  • This section should briefly summarize the previous parts of your report.  This is the place where you can write about your interpretations of your research results.  What were the most important findings?  What do the findings mean for your organization or for the population that you were studying?  What next steps should be taken?  Also, use this section to point out topics that are in need of further research to better understand the phenomenon.
     
References
  1. Endnotes
  2. References and Bibliography
  3. Appendix

    Where possible, the appendix should include any research instruments you used, like your survey questions.  Any other relevant documents that readers might want to refer to should also be included here.

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