Qualitative research utilizes focus group methodology for data collection, which collects data through group interaction. The Focus group technique was standard practice in sociology, but now it encompasses all social sciences subjects. It is also popular in market research as well. Focus group research comprises a small group of selected participants discussing a given topic. The group members share their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes regarding a phenomenon. The subject matter of focus group discussion can be about ideas, concepts, products and services, social and political issues. The Focus group technique is an in-depth interview attained through group interaction.
The primary aim of focus group discussions is to analyze group interaction. The participants indulge in a discussion about the chosen topic and influence each other’s ideas through their answers. The researcher sparks up the conversation with comments and relevant information. But, the primary aim of a researcher is to produce credible results and reduce baisness in the discussion. Focus group research requires knowledge on how to conduct it properly. If you are not aware of the proper way to conduct focus group research, you might generate biased results. Therefore, to conduct focus group research objectively, you should be aware of different techniques. Whether you are hiring dissertation writing services or doing self-writing, this article will guide you on how to do focus group research effectively.
What Is A Focus Group Discussion?
A focus group discussion usually consists of 10 or more people. It is a form of interviewing in which a researcher gathers information by observing the group interaction. The data collected from this technique includes transcripts of the discussions, reflections, and the researcher’s comments. A researcher observes the involvement of group members in discussions and listens to their opinions and beliefs about an issue. Focus Group Research has the following attributes:
- Homogeneity of participants with respect to the research problem
- Discussions on a focused topic determined by the purpose of the research
- Led by a researcher or a moderator
- Loosely structured discussions about the relevant research problem
- Researchers outline the topics which the group can discuss
What is the Purpose of Focus Group Discussion?
Focus group discussion is an efficient strategy for observing group interaction of people from similar backgrounds. It is mainly used to work on dissertation research and even write comparative essays. Focus group research is exploratory research that does not conclude with what people think about an issue. It instead focuses on how and why they feel the way they do. The researcher engages the group participants in a discussion about the topic, leading to a lively discussion. It is common to observe a difference of opinion among two discussion groups. Both groups can have similar demographics but might have different thoughts on the issue. Information gathered through Focus group discussion does not rely on one observation.
Criteria for using Focus Group in Research
A researcher must consider the following suggestions while doing the focus group research.
It pertains to a method where the researcher only utilizes a focus group as the sole data collection method.
A researcher can also utilize focus groups as an additional way to enhance the data collection. It can also serve as a preamble to quantitative research. The insights gathered by observing group interaction can be helpful to develop more structured questions about the research problem.
Data collected through focus groups can further clarify and refine the data collected from other sources.
Focus Groups are, however, not helpful in the following scenarios:
- If the discussion of the focus group strays from the original research problem.
- If the discussion generates outcomes contrary to the purpose of the study
- And if group members are not comfortable sharing their opinions
- If the research topic is controversial and the participants are not comfortable discussing it
- Focus groups are not helpful if the researcher wishes to collect statistical data that pertains to numbers
How To Conduct Focus Group Research?
Focus group research requires implementing the following practices:
Make a Plan
- Explicitly state the goals and objectives of the research relevant to the research problem
- Set the time for discussion, and it should be between 45 to 90 minutes
- Choose a homogenous group
- Draft questions with intellectual honesty and they should be similar to your research objectives
- The maximum number of questions can be 12, ten is better, and eight questions are ideal
- Make short and to the point questions
- Every question should deal with one particular aspect of an issue
- Make sure to avoid ambiguity in questions
- Open-ended questions
- Don’t formulate such questions which can be prejudicial to gender, religion, ethnicity and a community
- Ask why and how questions since the purpose of Focus Group research is to explore
Set The Time And Location
- Schedule the time and place of discussion
- Let the participants know in advance about the specific time and venue
- Conduct the discussion in a comfortable place with ample space for parking and clean toilets
- Arrange for food
- Start with engagement questions that can introduce the participants to the topic of your research and make them comfortable
- Ask exploratory questions to reach the primary purpose of the discussion
- Exit questions help to cover anything not discussed during the discussion
- Let the discussion flow in a free manner
- Avoid letting your biases and opinions influence the discussion
- Participants should have the autonomy to lead the discussion and exchange ideas in a natural setting
Role of Researcher or Moderator
A researcher must keep the following things in mind while conducting focus group research.
- Carefully listen to the opinions of participants
- Should be sensitive to the opinions of group members
- Provide equal opportunity to everyone to speak out their mind irrespective of their age, gender, social background and education
- The researcher should have adequate knowledge about the subject for discussion
- Keep the personal biases and emotions in check
- Record the discussions
- Make notes of the non-verbal communication
- Keep the identity of participants anonymous
- Reflect on the overall discussion
More than One Focus Group
Data gathered through discussing the research problem with one focus group cannot generate reliable data. So, it is essential to carry out focus group discussions with three or four groups to generate valid results. When the talks cannot add any more contributions to the research problem, the discussions reach their saturation point.
Focus group research by observing group interaction in a natural setting helps gather deep insights about a particular issue. A focus group allows the participants to discuss the ideas freely and helps to express their views better. It is a good practice in research that is unpredictable and open to new ideas. The results from focus group discussions can refine the entire research process. If you do not know how to do focus group research, read the above guidelines and start working on your research.