What is a Discussion Guide?
This is a list of instructions and questions that researchers use to shape the direction of qualitative research interviews; be they one-to-one depth interviews, focus groups or other types of qualitative market research. They are often designed to ‘warm up’ the respondent with easier questions before homing in on the areas where the client wants the research to deliver most insight.
Discussion guides are best constructed in a way which ensures the moderator covers the objectives but are not so restrictive that the conversation feels forced. Clients shouldn’t expect the moderator to follow the guide ‘to the letter’ as the best sessions allow the conversation to take new twists/turns as new insights emerge.
It is generally not possible to ‘ask every question’ in every session, instead moderators look to cover them across all sessions – using later interviews to focus in on more contentious or ambiguous points or new objectives which emerge as a result of earlier insights.
It’s important not to cover too many issues in any single discussion guide to avoid the risk of capturing superficial understanding rather than discovering new/rich insights.
Expect discussions guides to come in many forms! Some people prefer mind-map style discussion guides allowing them to visually represent all which will be covered, whilst more verbally-orientated moderators prefer a question by question approach.