Focus groups are an informal
research method using personal interviews with selected individuals to
determine attitudes and needs. Although focus group results should
not be seen a representative of any particular audience, they can be indicative
of audience knowledge, predispositions and behavior Focus groups
are often used in advance of employing survey research. The steps
used in conducting a focus group:
Develop general questions
based upon your information needs. The questions should be open-ended
in encourage discussion.
Select as a moderator someone
skilled in interviewing techniques. The moderator must be strong
enough to control the discussion and keep it on track.
Recruit six to 12 participants.
Decide upon a sampling strategy. From what kind of people do you
wish to hear opinions? Sometimes a screening questionnaire will narrow
the field for you. Sometimes a quota sampling technique is used.
It is not unusual for the participants to be compensated (money, free meal,
etc.). It is best to work with homogenous groups (even if it means
conducting additional focus groups).
Record the session.
Make certain participants know that the session is being recorded.
Have observers sitting outside
of the group. They should record their impressions in notes.
Limit the discussion to one
or one and one-half hours.
Talk about problems and needs
-- not solutions. (It is very likely that the participants are
not qualified to discuss solutions.)
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Prepare written report on
session. Begin with a statement of what a focus group is and
its purposes. (It is very possible that you client may not be familiar
with the concept.) Indicate the time and location of the session,
as well as how the participants were selected. Summarize the session.
When possible, identify participants by name, age, occupation, hometown
and any other pertinent information. Where possible, use direct quotations.
At the end of the summary, present your group's analysis of what its considers
were the most significant findings learned from the session.
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