Day#309: Focus Groups and when to use them

Day#309: Focus Groups and when to use them

Hey Researchers and Designers, today I wanted to talk about Focus Groups, so this is an older method that is often well known in the marketing industry. Something that I wanted to share in this post was discussing the details of the situations that Focus groups can be utilized for. 

  1. Understand human behavior before choosing a methodology

This is so important because your information gathered can so easily be tainted by a lot of group like behavior. For example Group think, you can check out my article on the behavior model here

You can also look at some studies namely the Ash conformity study, which I also did a post on here.This study detailed confederates (people who know the test mechanics, and acting to gain insights) who were positioned within the study. Confederates were asked about a simple length of a line. The placement of confederates answering the question is important because when before the participant, the participant eventually felt social pressure and conformed. Within the context of a focus group this is the last thing you want. The size of the focus group, and placement of the participants, and types of questions is very important in guaranteeing accurate feedback.

  1. Suitable Focus Group scenarios

There are however certain situations where this can work, and as someone who I admire said very recently they can work with food items or perhaps with testing detergents and products that do not hold a personal value associated with it. For example testing on sexual activity, political views, religion and finance may not be the best but as said above that does not mean focus groups are never an option. I enjoyed reading this article titled “What about N, a methodological sample size reporting in focus group studies.” below you will see a passage that stood out for me. For more information you can read the entire article here.

“Focus groups differ from group interviews in that the emphasis is on the interaction between the participants rather than between the moderator or researcher and the participants [4]. In recent years, focus groups have become increasingly popular within health science research; in a Medline search in 1999, Twohig and Putnam [7] found no focus group studies before 1985 but more than 1000 studies between 1985 and 1999. Focus groups are well suited to explore people’s subjective experiences and attitudes, and health researchers are repeatedly encouraged to use focus groups to evaluate health services, to elicit the views of key stakeholders or decision makers or to explore the views of marginalised groups that typically would not respond to a postal survey or would be intimidated by a conventional interview situation [2,5,7,8]. Focus group interviews are also recommended as a pre- or post-study to prepare or interpret data from surveys or trial studies.”

The above shows the methodology more centered around a discussion than an interview style which I am more used to. Also interesting how this method has become so popular in the health science industry, being in finance I really think it can be difficult to gain accurate insights on behavior, however interested to hear if any readers have any ideas for incorporating this.

Types of focus group methodologies

Reference:Centre for Innovation in Research and Teaching. 

“Single focus group – This is the classical type of focus group where all respondents are placed in one group to interactively discuss the topic.

Two-way focus groups – This format involves using two groups. One group actively discusses the topic and the other group observes the first group and then discusses their interactions.

Dual moderator focus groups – The moderators work together with one moderator asking the questions and leading the session and the other moderator ensuring that all questions are asked and any new evolutions are discussed further.

Dueling moderator focus groups – The two moderators purposefully take opposing sides on an issues or topic to fuel discussion.

Respondent moderator focus group – One of the respondents will temporarily act as the moderator which changes the dynamics of the group.

Mini Focus groups – This format uses smaller groups of only 4-5 participants.

Teleconference or online focus groups – These formats use conference calling, chat rooms or other online means to conduct the focus group to allow for better outreach to participants.”

I must say some of the options above do seem interesting and given the right circumstances I would be enthusiastic to conduct testing in that fashion. Before I end of though, I want to discuss a stereotype and misconception around Focus groups. 

Focus groups are a cheaper option

Not at all, often this misconception comes about because it is looked at as less time for conducting the research. However incentives still need to be taken into account, as well as time of the Researcher conducting the testing. Even if you have an in house resource, it is still an expenses. There after you still have the time in which the researcher has to synthesize the data and compile a report. The other concern is that if it is not well suited, then it will be a waste of money in its entirety and cost the company much more in relation to decisions that are made from the findings from the focus group. Again to reiterate that is not to say that focus group findings are never accurate or is never a worth while feat. They really are an interesting method, and conducting them in certain situations can prove valuable and defining in understanding consumer needs with a conversational like environment or a relaxed group activity about content that does not have societal pressures around it.

To end off, I enjoyed learning about the different types of focus groups, and interested to try this method out at some point in my research career. Until next time, happy researching!

Bye for now



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