Focus Groups

Overview

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.

Application

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.

Strengths

  • 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.

Limitations

  • 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.