Moderation, the term used for directing a focus group session to ensure it achieves its objectives, plays a critical role in obtaining high-quality, relevant data for your research. And the person conducting the moderation needs specific skills.
In this blog, we look more closely at what moderation is, why its role is so important in research studies and how to ensure it supports successful data collection.
What exactly is moderation?
For those working in market research, the term moderation will likely be pretty familiar to you. However, outside of these circles, its definition may be less clear.
Moderation is generally used during focus group sessions, where data is collected for a research project. It ensures the session sticks to its objectives and obtains sufficient, relevant data to analyse and deliver insights on the studied subject. A moderator is a person responsible for this direction of the session.
Focus group sessions typically involve a small group of people, selected for specific attributes, skills or experience, who are asked to share their views on the topic studied. For example, it could be a group of doctors discussing a new treatment approach or a group of teenagers sharing their thoughts on a new game about to hit the market. During the session, the moderator will ask questions to gather qualitative data from the group. Once analysed, the results are provided to the brand or organisation that has commissioned the research and has a vested interest in its outcome.
What skills should a moderator have?
Moderation can be quite a tricky task, involving managing a range of different personalities to ensure they all contribute to the discussion and the relevant topics are adequately explored. For a focus group to be effectively moderated, the moderator should possess the following capabilities:
- In-depth knowledge of the subject and its objectives and experience in research moderation
- Excellent communication skills to:
- Ask the right questions
- Listen to and note the responses
- Encourage participation and engagement from all participants
- Careful observation skills to:
- Identify non-verbal reactions and their relevance to the study
- Adept problem-solving skills for:
- Keeping participants on topic and effectively navigating them through the relevant objectives
- Probing deeper on specific topics to uncover hidden perceptions
- Curtailing any issues
- An unbiased approach to avoid influencing responses
Focus group sessions may take place in the native language of the brand or organisation. However, a wider opinion is often sought, and individuals from different global markets are asked to participate in the research. In this instance, the moderator should be native to the participants’ locale to ensure communication is as seamless as possible.
Other responsibilities of a moderator
Sometimes the moderator may be asked to compile their own findings or insights on the study. These can be in the form of a top-line, summary or comprehensive report, created according to the clients’ requirements and sometimes presented in a forum for discussion.
Why is high-quality moderation essential to the outcome of a study?
By asking the right questions, responding appropriately to the participants and guiding their discussion without bias while still ensuring the session’s objectives are achieved, a moderator plays a significant role in gathering relevant data for the study.
Any misunderstandings, unexplored areas, or biassed interactions arising from the moderation may mean a study has missing data or, more critically, misleads the brand or organisation with invalid information.
In comparison, when a moderator carries out their role effectively, they build a natural rapport within the group, where participants feel comfortable and free-flowing discussion unlocks valuable, in-depth insights. The session can also become a platform for collaboration and co-creation of ideas. The data obtained from these sessions provide constructive guidance for business decisions and strategy, providing information such as:
- First-hand, initial reactions and more evaluative thoughts on a product or service
- Needs, attitudes and beliefs of the target market
- Perceptions of competitors
How does Mission Translate approach moderation?
Mission Translate specialises in supporting the market research industry with their language and research requirements, so we are perfectly positioned to provide moderation for global markets. Using the points highlighted above, our team is meticulous in sourcing the perfect moderator with the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience for your specific project. All our moderators then undergo comprehensive briefing and preparation before the session to ensure the delivery of valid and insightful data.