• Designate one person (not a participant) to be the note-taker at each focus group. It is important to know roles and responsibilities in advance so each person can prepare for the focus group.

  • Capture verbatim notes and record the conversation using a digital recorder. Capture the conversation word for word so your notes capture exactly what participants said. Do not summarize what people share – type their statement in their own words. Exact notes are important because they will help you during the analysis stage to know exactly what people said and how their statements connect to the questions you are interested in. It also provides quotes in your reports. Also use a voice recorder to record the focus group conversation. You can then transcribe the focus group or use the recording to fill in any gaps in your notes.

  • Ask for clarification if you do not understand something. If someone says something that you were not able to understand ask them to repeat or clarify what they said. While the facilitator is responsible for leading the conversation, the note-taker should ask clarifying or probing questions.

  • Keep time for the facilitator. Monitor the time using a watch or your computer and tell your facilitator when he has 15 minutes and 5 minutes remaining so he can prioritize questions and end the focus group on time. When you share the time with the facilitator, do not interrupt the group. Instead, tell him/her quietly or show him/her with your hands.

  • Write down contextual notes about the focus group. Note impressions or insights that describe the "feel" of the focus group or that seemed to affect the conversation. For example, how many people participated? How many of them were men/women? What was the age range? Did people enter the conversation late? Did people leave the conversation early? Were people particularly interested in talking about specific questions? These notes will help other people understand aspects of the focus group that are not in the verbatim notes. Indicate in the notes if people show non-verbal agreement or dissent through nodding/head shaking/other body language.

  • Clean your notes and add or complete reflection notes after the focus group. Within 24 hours after conducting the focus group clean your notes so shorthand is spelled out and gaps are filled in. It can be difficult to remember what people said after 24 hours. Make sure your notes are clear and can be understood by another person who did not attend the focus group.