Focus Groups


What Are Focus Groups?
Focus groups involve a structured process in which a number of participants, typically 8 to 12, are asked their opinion on predetermined questions. The goal of focus groups is not to achieve consensus, but rather to get a range of opinions and ideas and to understand perspectives.


Focus groups can be a valuable tool in identifying key stakeholders? attitudes and perceptions, as well as other data on a number of issues related to social science. For instance, focus groups could help assess and measure stakeholder perceptions on different management issues including no-take zones, recreational uses, and economic impacts. Focus groups could also be used as a way to find out what "special places" local residents or indigenous groups value based on cultural, traditional, or historical use. Focus groups are often used in the survey design process.


  • Gathers useful information from multiple individuals with knowledge on a topic.

  • Provides community members with a sense of involvement on a topic they feel strongly about.

  • Supports findings of other methods.


  • Can be time-consuming in preparation as well as in interpretation of results.

  • Limited to a small number of individuals involved at one time.

  • May require facilitation assistance by a skilled facilitator.

  • May be biased through interaction between participants and facilitator.

Expertise Needed

Minimal expertise is needed to organize and conduct informal focus groups. The use of a skilled facilitator can help reduce bias.

Resources: Books and Publications

  •  Kruger, R. A. 1994. Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Resources: Websites

  • Conducting a Focus Group
    Tips and advice for planning, conducting, and evaluating focus groups from Lehigh University.

  • Focus Groups and Telephone Focus Groups
    Several different approaches for conducting a focus group are provided in these links from Market Navigation, Inc.

  • Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group
    The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has put together a guide that takes you through the preparation, participant selection, session logistics, moderating, and analysis of a focus group session.

  • How to Conduct a Focus Group
    This article from The Grantsmanship Center's magazine takes you through the steps for conducting a focus group and includes answers to some frequently asked questions.