Focus group is used to understand things at a deeper level. Ideas and attitudes about a specific product, service or opportunity are elicited in an interactive group environment guided by a moderator.
ORGANISING A FOCUS GROUP TYPICALLY INVOLVES THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES
- DEFINING A FOCUS GROUP
The group may be homogenous/heterogeneous in nature. Homogeneity levels the playing field and reduces inhibitions among people who will probably never see each other again. Eventually, the pro and cons of using heterogeneous group should be considered over homogeneous group.
Homogeneous – Individuals with similar characteristics
Heterogeneous – Individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives
A focus group typically has 6-12 attendees who are pre-qualified professionals in the respective area, led through an open discussion by a skilled moderator and an assistant moderator (if required). The group needs to be large enough to generate rich discussion but not so large that some participants are left out.
The ideal amount of time to set aside for a focus group is anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. The moderator’s goal is to generate a maximum number of different ideas and opinions from as many different people in the time allotted.
In order to produce valid results, ideally three to four focus groups are conducted based on availability participants. Number of focus groups may be increased until the saturation point is achieved. Usually, the saturation point is defined as the point when you don’t hear anything new with the same set of questions after conducting enough focus groups.
It takes more than one focus group on any one topic to produce valid results – usually three or four. You’ll know you’ve conducted enough groups (with the same set of questions) when you’re not hearing anything new anymore, i.e. you’ve reached a point of saturation.
- DEFINING FOCUS GROUP QUESTIONS
The ideal number of questions for any focus group is between 8 and 12. Focus groups questions should be framed considering the following aspects,
- Short and to the point
- Focused to the topic of discussion
- Unambigueously worded
- Open ended
- Not creating defensive mind set
The questions should be framed and structured based on the following type of questions
Engagement questions: Introduce participants to and make them comfortable with the topic of discussion,
Exploration questions: Get to the meat of the discussion and Exit question: check to see if anything was missed in the discussion
- RECRUITING AND PREPARING PARTICIPANTS
In an ideal focus group, all the participants are very comfortable with each other but none of them know each other.
Individuals of the group are selected on the following basis:
- Cliques (circles/gangs)
The Participants are pre qualifies professionals in the area of concern of the focus group. Inclusion criteria of the participants should be solely based on the topic of discussion and the purpose of study.
Focus Group Participants can be recruited by way of Nomination, Random Selection, all members of the same group, same role/job, Volunteering.
Once a group of viable recruits has been established, they should be informed about the time and location of focus group to confirm their interest and availability. Tell participants that the focus group will take about one and half to two hours. Once the Participants are finalised they are informed through mail/telephone.
- CONDUCTING THE FOCUS GROUP
Ideally a moderator guides the Focus group while the assistant Moderator takes notes or record the discussion using an audio/video recorder.
Give them a starting time that is 15 minutes prior to the actual start of the focus group to allow for filling out necessary paperwork, having a bite to eat, and settling in to the group.
The moderator is responsible to get all participants to talk and fully explain their answers. Some helpful probes include:
“Can you talk about that more?”
“Help me understand what you mean”
“Can you give an example?”
It is good moderator practice to paraphrase and summarize long, complex or ambiguous comments. It clarifies the comment for everyone in the group. A moderator must tactfully deal with challenging participants.
Self-appointed experts: “Thank you. What do other people think?”
The dominator: “Let’s have some other comments.”
The moderator thanks all the participants after completing the focus group session.
- ANALYSING THE DATA
In order to make the comments of participants understandable and identify requirements, the data collected are compiled by a systematic and verifiable process.
Clean up transcripts by stripping off nonessential words. Simultaneously assign each participant comment/quote a separate line on the page as well as each new thought or idea therein. Label each line with the participant and group number, e.g. a comment from participant 6 in group 2 would be assigned the number 2.6. Steps in analyzing the data are given below.
- Compile the data with reference ID
- Analyse the data and sort them into categories
- Synthesis the requirements
= A focus group is not:
- A debate
- Group therapy
- A conflict resolution session
- A problem solving session
- An opportunity to collaborate
- A promotional opportunity
- An educational session
= Never over invite participants in anticipation of a no-show rate of 10-20% because we never need a group of more than 10 participants.
< Organize the times, locations and people involved for all the groups you have scheduled
< Before asking the first focus group question, an icebreaker can be inserted to increase comfort and level the playing field
< Immediately after all participants leave, the moderator and assistant moderator debrief while the recorder is still running and label all tapes and notes with the date, time (if more than one group per day), and name of the group.Tags: Elicitation Focus Group