Document Type



Institutional researchers are often asked to conduct focus groups as an efficient way to address an institutional concern or problem. Typically, IR professionals depend on external consultants and specialists to conduct these group interviews for them; however, due to recent resource constraints (staffing, budgets), they are increasingly assuming responsibility for conducting the focus group sessions themselves. Institutional researchers require specialized skills in order to engage college students in this type of group interviewing; college students present specific characteristics and preferences that require careful consideration. Numerous research studies have used focus groups to support or augment research on college students (Breen, 2006; Diambra, McClam, Fuss, Burton, & Fudge, 2009; Kicklighter, Koonce, Rosenbloom, & Commander, 2010; Naylor, Stoffel, & Van Der Laan, 2008; Ouimet, Bunnage, Carini, Kuh, & Kennedy, 2004; Raby, 2007, 2010; Wellington, 2010; Williams, Bonnell, & Stoffel, 2009), spanning the areas of student satisfaction, assessment of student learning and support services, and program evaluation (Astin, 1993). As student research programs continue to expand and support campus decision-making, it is important that practitioners develop the necessary skills to effectively plan and conduct focus groups with college students. While some researchers have discussed the challenges of conducting focus groups with children and teens (Morgan, Gibbs, Maxwell, & Britten, 2002; Raby, 2010), few studies highlight the methods required to work effectively with college students. This paper is intended to assist practitioners by recommending practical interviewing strategies, with particular emphasis on the opportunities and challenges encountered when working with this unique population.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Billups, F. D. (2012, Fall). Conducting focus groups with college students: Strategies to ensure success. Association for Institutional Research - Professional File, 127, 1-12.



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