In the course of designing a research project researchers may deem a focus group as the best way to gather data from several participants in a short amount of time. When conducting focus groups please remember to inform participants of the topics to be discussed, the risks and benefits of participation, and the manner and form in which data will be collected and confidentiality will be maintained. Below you will find more specific guidance on conducting focus groups with an eye toward human subjects research compliance. For examples of consent forms please refer to our consent form template page.
Informing Participants: Participants should be informed about the topics that will be discussed and who will participate in the focus group so that they may make an informed decision to participate beforehand. This is especially important for research that will engage sensitive topics and are considered more than minimal risk. Please refer to the to the types of review to determine level of risk for your particular research project.
Audio and Video Recordings: Participants should be informed before the focus group if the session will be audio or video recorded. Participants should also be informed about what will be done with these recordings. If audio or video from the focus groups will be used for something other than data analysis for the approved protocol (i.e. – future research studies, educational purposes, conference presentations, etc.) then participants must explicitly agree to this in the form of a checked box agreeing to or not agreeing to have their video/audio used for the above purposes in the consent form. For an example of wording to be used in the consent form please refer to our consent form template page. For further information on audio, video, and digital recordings of data please refer to our guidelines.
Risks and Confidentiality: The nature of a focus group is such that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. The researchers must provide participants with the procedures in place to maintain confidentiality of the research data and they must inform participants not to repeat what is said in the focus group to others. For research that is minimal risk adding a paragraph to the informed consent detailing issues of confidentiality for focus groups will suffice.
Paragraph to be included in Focus Group Informed Consent:
Please be advised that although the researchers will take every precaution to maintain confidentiality of the data, the nature of focus groups prevents the researchers from guaranteeing confidentiality. The researchers would like to remind participants to respect the privacy of your fellow participants and not repeat what is said in the focus group to others.
For research that is above minimal risk it may be necessary to include a statement of non-disclosure that participants would agree to in the informed consent.