Group Discussions (FGDs) are very popular in social science research. In fact, it has become an over-used, abused and misused method of gathering data and information. It has become a cliche method, sometimes utilized as an excuse for not knowing other methods and techniques, and oftentimes wrongly employed and applied by many researchers. There is a need to re-educate ourselves, to go back again to the basic FGD method, and to revisit its methodical philosophy and procedure.

In her book, Understanding and Doing Research (2002), Dr. Fely David described the FGD as an “informal in-depth discussion in which a small number of participants, under the guidance of a moderator or facilitator, talk about topics of special importance to a particular research issue.... participants are purposely selected from a defined target population whose opinions and ideas are relevant to the research….”

But I vote for Kenette Ellison's work on basic group facilitation methods, where he analyzed and identified the logical steps in conducting FGDs: contextualizing, brainstorming, clustering, titling/labeling, and reflection. These logical steps are very helpful in establishing discernible patterns and thematic trends generated from the group discussion. Ellison (1997) describes in detail the FGD workshop method as a process that organizes the participants on their journey towards deepening the discussions and insights of a group.
  1. The first of these steps is the context, at which the parameters for the group discussion are defined and set. Usually, this is in the form of a focus question that the group will seek to answer.
  2. This is then followed by the brainstorm, at which data and ideas are generated at three levels – first individually, and then in small groups, and finally in plenary.
  3. Once the ideas have been generated, the third step asks the group to cluster these ideas. Similar themes or topics are grouped together.
  4. With similarly intended (or defined) ideas clustered, the group then proceeds to give a title (or label) to each of the clusters, which directly respond to the focus question (or a set of guide questions) they sought to answer.
  5. And finally, after the group’s ideas were articulated and presented in plenary, the workshop session ended by a brief collective reflection at which the implications of the many ideas were reviewed, elaborated further and appreciated.
Conducting FGDs requires discipline and fidelity on the part of the researcher. The researcher needs to be meticulous in probing the discussions through focus questions, as well as in documenting the responses. More importantly the researcher needs to be faithful to the group responses, applying extra care in distilling and categorizing these responses without contaminating the same. Contamination occurs when the researcher over-interprets the responses (especially upon consolidation and analysis), thereby reducing the reliability of the discussion outcomes.


Amorado, Ronnie V. 2007. Fixing Society: The Inside World of Fixers in the Philippines. Davao City: Ateneo de Davao University - Research and Publication Office.

Amorado, Ronald V. 2005. Fixing Society: The Inside World of Fixers in the Philippines. A Doctoral Dissertation. Davao City, Philippines: Ateneo de Davao University-Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

David, Fely P. 2002. Understanding and Doing Research: A Handbook for Beginners. Iloilo City: Central Philippine University – Social Science Research Institute.

Ellison, Kenette H. et al. 1997. Technology of Participation: Basic Group Facilitation Methods. Associates in Rural Development (ARD) and Governance and Local Democracy Project (GOLD). Philippines: USAID.