Even if you don’t conduct elicitation interviews, conducting your own focus groups can help your coalition get insight into car seat use in your community. Focus group participants can share what they know about how car seats are used or not used.  Their stories can be extremely valuable in illuminating any common attitudes or beliefs about child passenger restraints, too. This may allow the tribe to identify barriers that may prevent drivers from properly restraining children in cars.

Focus group preparations should include the following steps:

  • Planning
  • Recruiting
  • Moderating
  • Analyzing and summarizing.

A complete Focus Group Kit, written by David L. Morgan and Richard A. Kruger, is available through Sage Publications. The Native CARS team highly recommends this no nonsense approach to focus groups.


  • Before “proceeding to go,” take time to define the purpose of conducting your focus group. Imagine what you hope to learn from the focus group, and how you will use its findings.  This is an important frame that will guide you through your subsequent steps.
  • Identify who will staff the focus group and what their roles will be.  Who will help develop the focus group questions? Who will recruit participants?  Who will moderate the focus group?  Who will arrange venues, and who will host the focus group?
  • Then, construct a simple timeline of focus group planning tasks with the “what, who, and when” that help define what the tasks are, who will lead those tasks, and when they will need to be completed to prepare for your focus group.
  • Determine who your participants will be and how many participants you plan to have.  Will you include only parents or all type of drivers of children?  Will you interview providers who serve families of children under 12?   If you are trying to be inclusive of special sub-populations in your focus group and want to be sure they are represented, you may find creating a simple matrix to track who is being invited can help.  To see the one we created for the Native CARS Study, click here.  Typically, focus groups of eight-to-ten participants are large enough to represent different view points and stimulate conversation, while also allowing all participants time to have an opportunity to respond.
  • Draft questions. As you begin to draft your questions, you need to first decide on how structured your focus group will be, and how much you will allow participants to pursue  other topics outside of your planned questions.  Ideally questions should be broad and open-ended. For example:
    • A closed-ended question might be:  Does your child always use a child safety seat?
    • An open-ended question might be:  Describe a situation in which a child safety seat may not be used?
  • Review and finalize questions to be asked.

Draft, review, test, and finalize approximately ten questions to keep your focus group to about ninety minutes in length for a group of eight-to-ten participants.

To look at some sample focus group questions, click here.

Moderating a Focus Group

A moderator’s guide should be created that not only provides the questions to be asked, but also provides instruction on how to ask the question, and provides question prompts if responses do not immediately follow.  The moderator’s guide should also include guidelines for how to politely keep participants focused on your planned questions, if they start to stray too far from the issues you would like feedback on.

A moderator’s guide may also remind the moderator how to open the focus group, how to put participants at ease, how to be a good listener, and how respond to any problems should they arise.

Click to see the Moderator’s Guide used by the Native CARS Study.


When you prepare a list of potential participants, you might consider:

  • Parents.
  • Other caregivers.
  • Drivers carrying children of various ages.
  • Child care workers or other professionals who may have some insights.
  • Both men and women.
  • Drivers of various ages.

Develop a participant screener, and invite participants using the focus group screener.  To invite participants:

  • First, call.
  • Then, send follow-up email or letters.

Click to see a Native CARS focus group invitation and reminder.

Additional Points to Remember When Planning Focus Groups

  • When scheduling focus group dates, avoid Mondays during football season, nights for elders, and other popular activities.
  • Be sure to reserve a room. This is especially important when you are recording answers. The room should be large enough to be comfortable, but small enough to feel intimate.  It should be private enough to prevent “Looky Lous,” and protect the privacy of discussion.
  • Arrange for a meal. Starting or finishing with a meal is always recommended if your budget allows. Sometimes, a community has a cook whose food can always assure a good crowd. When we offered Betty’s Chicken on the one community, we had people asking us if they could come.  It is especially nice if you use a restaurant or store than doesn’t often offer discounts.  At a minimum, have beverages and an attractive light snack.

The day of focus groups, the coordinator will need to assure the following preparations are in place:

  • Make reminder calls.
  • Confirm if transport is needed.
  • Arrange for any changes in transportation.
  • Set up AV needs for focus group room.
    • Easel
    • PPT projector
  • Collect consent forms before beginning the focus group.


Learn how to analyze your qualitative data in the next section.