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Focus Groups

Focus Groups are carefully planned group discussions in a comfortable environment with a special focus or purpose.  They promote discussion among group members in order to understand their knowledge, attitudes, practices and preferences related to the subject being focused on. Focus groups are widely used in the private sector for market research, and to a lesser extent by other organizations.

Focus groups provide in-depth information for such purposes as:

  • program planning and development
  • program evaluation
  • message and materials development and testing including advertisements
  • market research and marketing
  • other kinds of strategic planning

Each group discussion has a special focus or purpose. Focus groups have a special size range, composition, and process, and are usually recorded with advance participant consent. Typically, several groups are conducted with the same focus or purpose in order to identify trends and patterns. After each focus group, the findings are analyzed in detail and a written summary is prepared.

 Key Advantages of Focus Groups:

  • Facilitate social exchange, which is often enjoyable and thus more revealing
  • Their format permits the moderator, who is a skilled interviewer, to probe, and also to turn to unplanned questions, if the responses make that desirable.
  • They are elatively low cost compared to many other research methods
  • They can be conducted in a relatively short period of time. As a result, then can provide relatively quick results

Key Limitations of Focus Groups:

  • The results are more difficult to analyze than survey or quantitative data
  • The moderator has less control over the interview than in an individual interview
  • The activity’s effectiveness basically depends on the level of skill of the interviewer or moderator
  • Because of group differences, it’s best for several focus groups to be conducted with the same purpose
  • A well prepared moderator’s or interviewer’s guide, the recruitment process, and facility requirements need special attention
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