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What is Formative Research?

Formative research uses qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods to ensure interventions are responsive to the needs of the target population and tailored to the local context. In health services, formative research seeks to co-create clinical and community-based health interventions. Formative research informs strategies to optimize intervention relevance, acceptability, feasibility, and sustainability, and can be conducted at any stage of intervention design, implementation, and evaluation.

What does the Formative Research Team do?

Mission: To promote the use of rigorous research methods that aim to understand and incorporate the perspectives of patients, providers, families, and community members into the design of health programs.

Based at the Children’s Mercy Research Institute (CMRI), the Formative Research Team (FRT) consults and collaborates with researchers within and beyond the Kansas City academic community to:

  • Construct formative research studies on a strong foundation of social and behavioral theory
  • Integrate formative research methods in grant proposals and IRB protocols
  • Design and conduct rigorous in-depth interviews, focus-groups, and surveys
  • Analyze qualitative data
  • Disseminate formative research findings to various audiences
  • Guide the integration of findings into interventions and their evaluation

To connect with the Formative Research Team, please fill out this form.

Meet the Formative Research Team

Click the button below to learn more about our Formative Research Team Members!

Example Collaborations

Genomic Medicine Center
Children’s Mercy’s internationally renowned pediatric genomic center collaborates with the FRT to find ways to put patients at the center of genomic medicine and research. This includes  improving how genomic sequencing results are communicated to families (view the published article here). The team is currently collaborating with the Genomic Center on a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) engagement award, to create a patient and family-driven research agenda for research on rare conditions.

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The FRT was part of a University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) led federally funded, multi-organization collaboration to promote physical activity and nutrition in Kansas City’s middle schools. FRT conducted a series of focus groups that informed the program’s creation and COVID-19 adaptations (view the published article here).

Our Healthy Jackson County
This academic-community partnership strives to reduce health inequities in Kansas City. The FRT collaborates to conduct qualitative research on community health worker referral systems and inform the design and evaluation of an intervention designed to increase adolescent sexual and mental health service access (view the abstract for AccessKCTeen here).


The Formative Research Team provides a five-week skills series every year. Even years focus on formative research skills, and odd years focus on qualitative research. The skills series consist of a 1-hour lecture with a 30-minute hands-on training session, which guides participants through the design of a qualitative study through analysis and dissemination of findings.

Formative Research Skills Series

This skills series covers how to design a formative research project, that incorporates theoretical and conceptual frameworks, and the role of different data gathering methods.

Qualitative Research Skills Series

This skills series covers how conduct in-depth interviews, focus-group discussions and how to analyze the qualitative data collected. The series also covers how to synthesize and disseminate qualitative findings.