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Focus Group Discussions are a rich source of qualitative data however, the quality of such data is dependent on the appropriate design and facilitation of the discussions. This study explored activity-oriented exercises as a way to yield more in-depth and complete information.

This paper authored by Pauline Scheelbeek et al and published in BMC Medical Research Methodology describes how six exercises were used in 32 maternal and newborn care themed Focus Group Discussions (FGD). The exercises included:

  • picture sorting,
  • associative pictures,
  • picture ranking,
  • decision trees,
  • predictive story-telling
  • provocative statement

The study took place in Nigeria and Ethiopia, authors interviewed six facilitators and two supervisors who used these exercises about their experiences. Results from this study show that overall, the exercises worked better in Nigeria than in Ethiopia.

The majority of the exercises proved successful tools in collecting richer and less biased information from FGDs and were experienced as fun and engaging. Tailoring of the exercises, as well as thorough training and selection of the facilitators, were pivotal in this success. The difference between the two countries shows that adequate piloting and adaptation is crucial and that some exercises may not be adaptable to all settings.


Dr Pauline Scheelbeek

Research Fellow, IDEAS 2015-2016

Yashua Hamza

Childcare and Wellness Clinics

Profile picture of Professor Joanna Schellenberg
Professor Joanna Schellenberg

IDEAS Co-Principal Investigator and Professor