Planning and Facilitating Focus Groups

Focus groupFocus groups are a great way to collect qualitative research data. They’re excellent for helping gain an insight into the views and perceptions of people, and a really great way of understanding users. They can be used to get feedback on products or services, or to help plan future developments. They’re often used in market research but can be adapted for a number of different purposes. One way we have used focus groups at Evidence Base was to gain a deeper understanding of student’s views on e-books and print books – their preferences, use, and reasons behind these. This was incredibly useful for supporting future purchasing decisions and user support. We’ve facilitated focus groups for a number of different organisations, including many libraries, and if you’d like us to work with you on this, please contact us.

Focus group training workshop

However, we recognised there was a need for training to enable other people to plan and facilitate their own focus groups or improve ones they already do. Following a number of requests for support in this, we spent time designing a training workshop on this topic. This started as a half-day workshop, but it has since expanded into a full day workshop to allow time for the theory, practice and planning.

The aims of the workshop are to help attendees:

  • Understand the value of focus groups and consider when they would be appropriate
  • Plan, organise and facilitate a focus group
  • Prepare activities for different types of focus groups to maximise the information collected
  • Report findings from focus groups to different stakeholders

The workshop includes a presentation to cover the logistics of focus groups, techniques to attract attendees, techniques to improve facilitation, and how to record and share the results of the focus group. It also includes a series of focus groups activities, based around a neutral topic, to experience the different types of activities you could include in focus groups. This then allows participants to consider how these could be adapted for their own focus groups.

We ran the first full day workshop in September, and had very positive feedback. Some comments included:

“Very thorough information and an excellent balance between theory and practical.”

“It has given me a theoretical and practical grounding for ideas and activities I have seen in use and participated in. I now have a clear idea of what sort of activities I would / wouldn’t use in different focus groups, and a good understanding of how people react differently to activities.”

“The activities were really useful to see how to make focus groups more interactive.”

“The handbook and individual exercises were laid out really clearly and will be really useful in future. The presentation was really clear and easy to follow.”

Book your place

Due to the success of the first workshop, we’ve scheduled another date to repeat it – Tuesday January 13th 2015. Booking is now open so you can find out more at and book your place at

Hope to see some of you there!


Mobile technologies in libraries – recent events

Though our m-library community support project has ended, we remain active in the area of mobile technologies in libraries to provide people with information which may help their library/information service, and to continue the conversations as new technologies and developments are introduced. Over the summer we have been involved in two events, as outlined below.

CILIP Umbrella Conference 2013

At the CILIP Umbrella Conference 2013, I collaborated with a colleague within BCU library, Annmarie Lee, to present a paper on ‘Putting research into practice: mobile technologies in libraries’. I have been part of the mobile technologies working group for BCU Library and Learning Resources, and through that have been able to be involved in projects as a researcher to help put what we learnt through the m-library community support project into practice (e.g. using the information in the Pathways to Best Practice Guides). Annmarie and I gave the perspective from a researcher and a practitioner, and highlighted some of the mobile technology projects currently in progress at BCU Library and Learning Resources. We also shared the benefits of a researcher/practitioner collaboration and some tips for both to help each other. You can view our presentation below, and our paper will be available in the conference proceedings which will be published by Facet Publishing.

Annmarie and I also wrote an article on this topic for SCONUL Focus which is due to be published shortly.

Mobile resources library access issues workshop

I helped co-ordinate this workshop hosted by Jisc Collections, and was invited to present a section in the morning session. The idea of the workshop was to get librarians together to discuss the issues currently being experienced in terms of access library content via mobile devices, and see if we could come up with a way to move towards addressing the issues. I presented on some of the approaches libraries are using to record information about access to library resources via mobile devices, and some of approaches publishers and content providers are delivering their content to mobile devices. My slides are below:

I also blogged an overview of the day on the Mobile Technologies in Libraries blog, and Mark Williams from Jisc Collections has published an article in Research Information reporting on the main themes from the day and the next steps.

Birmingham City University Library and Learning Resources, along with many other libraries I’m sure, have been working on mobile development over the summer to support the students when they return in September. If you’re interested in utilising mobile technologies in your library/information service, please check out the Pathways to Best Practice Guides or contact us for further guidance.