Group interviews and discussions

It can save time to discuss things in a group and people will bounce ideas, memories and feelings around. You will have to watch out for bias creeping in if you are trying to manage a group discussion.

Research method Preparation time Time to gather data Time to analyse data Not suitable for ... Does data indicate wellbeing? Who, what, where people experience wellbeing? Is it an activity in itself?
Group interviews and discussions Need time to devise interview questions Approx 30 mins to allow time for discussion to get going Slow – need to listen to all recordings/read notes People lacking in confidence, where group dynamic is problematic, parents looking after children, people who struggle to communicate complex ideas Yes, with appropriate questions Yes, with appropriate questions Yes
 Suitable for:

  • participants who are more articulate
  • participants confident talking in a group, and confident enough to be recorded
  • participants who feel under pressure if interviewed alone
  • stakeholders – particularly if you want to get a general feel for stakeholders’ expectation of wellbeing.

What information is collected?

  • people’s thoughts and feelings rather than observations of actual behaviour
  • taking into account the bias when analysing interviews it is a way for people to be represented directly in the research – can use direct quotes as evidence
  • results may be affected by passage of time e.g. if discussion is held after woodland sessions, rather than during.

How is information collected?

  • recorded on video/audio – though it can be hard to distinguish different voices, particularly in large groups
  • written notes – though this can be very challenging in group discussions, especially if you are facilitating discussion.

Watch out for:

  • research bias because group – people influence each other
  • who is present e.g. teachers, managers or authority figures who might stifle some views
  • members of the group who have a particular agenda/ideas and steer discussion towards this
  • asking leading questions. It can be helpful to write a ‘script’ and have a ‘dummy’ run so that you feel comfortable with this style of questioning/discussion leading. You can also explain to participants that you don’t want to ask leading questions
  • you could try role-playing or trialling discussions/group interviews so that you can feel comfortable before doing it for real.


Group interview/discussion

Materials needed: questions/themes, recording equipment

Method: find a quiet, relaxed place to hold your group interview/discussion (this could be part of a routine such as around the fire at lunchtime). Introduce the discussion making sure that people understand that there are no right or wrong answers and that everyone may have a different experience even within one group. You might want to ask some prepared questions or prefer to sit back and allow the discussion to flow. Make sure that you are able to record people’s responses (it can be easier to have one person to lead the discussion and another to record responses).

Adaptations: rather than involving the whole group you could form smaller groups or pairs (you will need to ensure that these discussions are adequately recorded and that you have time to analyse all the different discussions). If you form smaller groups do you have people to ensure that the discussions stay on-track?