The Do’s and Don'ts:
- Impartiality is the mainstay of credibility in research; the
moderator must always bear in mind that our purpose is research, not advocacy.
If required, she needs to sort out any biases prior to conducting a qual study.
During the discussion she should express interest in all shades of opinion, not
appear to give approval to any particular point of view, and should take care
not to lead or direct respondents with the line of questioning.
- She should use layman/respondents’ terminology rather than
corporate lingo or technical jargon.
- She should pay constant attention to respondents’ body language,
and learn to interpret it.
- She should frequently probe to decipher the inner thoughts and
feelings of respondents. She should bounce off an individual’s response with
rest of the group (e.g. “Who else feels like this?”) to gauge whether the views
that are expressed have broader appeal, and to expand the focus of inquiry.
Handling Potential Problems
Approaches to handling some of the
common problems encountered by moderators are listed here.
- Should a dominant personality (one who takes control of
the discussion) emerge within a group, the moderator will need to actively
encourage and elicit the opinions of others within the group, while at the same
time turn a cold shoulder to the dominant person.
- Passive participants require encouragement and support by
making eye contact, calling them by their names and directly asking them
- Superfluous storytellers need to be contained so that the
discussion may be brought back on course.
- All points of view, including those expressed in an insensitive
manner, should be captured, and the feelings acknowledged. In case of personal
attacks, the moderator should remind all participants to be respectful and
not direct feelings at others.
- The moderator should re-energize the group by introducing a break
or an activity whenever fatigue sets in.
- Silence should be respected if it arises from the
participants’ need to think through their answers. However if it is an uneasy
silence such as when respondents are feeling inhibited or are not clear about
what’s required from them, in that case the moderator should address the cause.