With informal group discussions, the interviewer has an idea of the topics that are to be covered in the interview, but there is no strict order in which the topics are to be covered and there is no strict wording of the questions to be asked. The discussion should be informal and conversational. Informants are encouraged to express themselves in their own terms rather than those dictated by the interviewer.

The key skill for the leader of a successful informal group discussion is the ability to stimulate informants to provide useful data without injecting too many of the interviewer’s words and concepts into the discussion. The group discussion approach allows the interviewer to respond to differences between informants and to follow and explore ‘leads’ as they arise.

The basic focus of informal group discussions in SQUEAC investigations is to discover reasons for non-attendance and defaulting. The informants usually either will not have a child eligible for entry into the program (e.g., community leaders) or will already have a child attending the program (e.g., carers of children attending program sites). This means that the collected data are often limited to perceptions of the motivations of others, rather than direct reports of personal motives. Data collected using informal group discussions in these groups are, therefore, most useful for finding relevant questions and wordings for later structured interviews with other informants and should always be triangulated with data collected using other methods.

Target respondent or source

Informal group discussions with:

  • Carers of children attending program sites

  • Relatively homogenous groups of key informants (e.g., community leaders and religious leaders) and lay informants (e.g., mothers and fathers)

  • Program staff

  • CBVs

Type of investigation

Informal group discussions can be useful sources of information about perceptions of health services and consumer experiences with health services. It is particularly important to collect this data when investigating the coverage of integrated CMAM services (e.g., CMAM services delivered using government-run health facilities as part of an integrated management of childhood illness or IMCI package). In this context, informants may not be able to distinguish between CMAM services and general healthcare provision, and negative opinions and negative experiences of clinics might act to reduce the coverage of all services, including CMAM services.

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