Author: Jennifer L. Harrison, Ph.D., LP, Solutions IRB Reviewer and Board Member
Date: January 16, 2024


Learn eCORE is happy to post this guest blog, from Solutions IRB that is the second in a two-part series on virtual focus groups.  This blog provides a handy check-list of key considerations for virtual focus groups that were discussed in detail in the prior blog on this topic.   Thanks to the Solutions IRB team for letting us share this practical information with our readers.


Considerations for Design of Virtual Focus Group

  • Consider:
    • Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
    • Can taking notes suffice instead of recording? And then discard the notes immediately after analysis is complete?
    • If you prefer to record, can you agree to delete the recordings immediately after analysis? Can you ensure that participants’ names will not be used on the recordings and instead ask that they use a pseudonym?
    • Can you obtain a certificate of confidentiality from the NIH (depending upon the type of information that is collected in the study)?
    • Video recording is more identifiable than audio recording, though audio recording is still identifiable by voice. Can you use audio recording in lieu of video and audio recording in instances where the participants’ identity should be protected?

Checklist for Consent Form

  • Ensure that risks for a breach of confidentiality – specifically related to focus groups and the researcher’s inability to guarantee confidentiality of information discussed – is addressed in the risks section and how this will be mitigated to the extent possible.
  • Include a statement that asks for consent to audio and/or video record prior to asking for consent to participate (e.g., “I provide consent to be audio recorded.”).
  • Include a statement that indicates whether or not the participant can still participate if they decline to be recorded (e.g., “I understand that if I decide not to be recorded, I cannot participate in this study.” OR “I understand that if I decide not to be recorded, I can still participate in this study.”).
  • Include a statement that asks for consent to participate.
  • If a waiver of documentation of consent was requested, ensure that either a box to be checked is used or some other way for the researcher to document that consent was obtained is included on the form – instead of a signature line – as names should not be collected in this instance for protecting participant identities – if there could be potential harm to the participant in the event of a breach of confidentiality.

Checklist for Obtaining Informed Consent and Consent to Record for Virtual Focus Group

  • Gather informed consent to participate on an individual basis.
  • Gather consent to audio and/or video record on an individual basis, at the same time as informed consent.
  • Within the focus group script, ensure that verbalizations are added to denote when the recording will begin and end so that participants are aware.
  • Do not ask for consent to participate in the focus group again at the time of the focus group – this has already been obtained at the time of informed consent.
  • Do not ask for consent to audio and/or video record again at the time of the focus group – this has already been obtained at the time of informed consent.


About the Author: Jennifer L. Harrison, Ph.D., LP earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Forensics from the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant International University. She is a licensed psychologist in Minnesota and Missouri, has an active APIT from the PsyPact Commission, and specializes in clinical and forensic psychology. Most of her training and career thus far has been within public service settings. She currently works as a forensic psychologist for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Direct Care and Treatment – Forensic Services. As a forensic examiner, she specializes in forensic evaluations to include competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility, civil commitment, general and sexual violence risk assessment, and repeat sexual offender evaluations, as well as providing expert testimony to the court system. Dr. Harrison is also a consultant with specialty in the delivery and implementation of an evidence-based cognitive therapy known as Michael’s Game, a card game for the treatment of delusional ideas. She serves as a primary reviewer for Solutions IRB with expertise in mental health, forensic psychology, clinical, forensic, and public service settings, and underserved populations. She serves as adjunct faculty for the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at CSPP at Alliant International University where she teaches a doctoral-level advanced statistical course in meta-analysis. She has extensive training and experience with meta-analytic research methods and actively publishes research in peer-reviewed journals. She is an invited Ad-Hoc Reviewer for multiple forensically-related peer-reviewed journals and she also currently serves as the Public Service Division Chair for the Minnesota Psychological Association.


About Solutions IRB:  Solutions IRB is a private, commercial, AAHRPP accredited Institutional Review Board. They are a team of experienced reviewers readily supporting researchers with IRB services, including the review of exempt, expedited, full board, minimal and greater than minimal risk studies. Solutions IRB is committed to protecting research participants, monitoring approved protocols, and providing outstanding customer service to our researchers. They provide quality and timely IRB review for many facets of studies, including social-behavioral, vulnerable populations, international, clinical trials, medical device, non-significant risk, and non-investigational new drug studies. Feel free to schedule a time here to discuss your research and what services they can provide for you!

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