The origins of focus group are within market research. The activity involves a small group of people opinions of whom are used to represent a larger population. The sample group are chosen because of they have a common set of characteristics, such as gender, demographics, or medical condition. Typically a focus group may be made up of six to ten people.
A moderator provides predetermined topics for discussion and acts as a facilitator or chair for the meeting. When organising a focus group some points to consider include:
- Participant recruitment
- Personality of each participant
- Participant seating (to avoid confrontational body language)
- Recording the meeting (including flip charts, video or voice recording)
- Prompts for discussion (similar to interview method)
The meeting moderator must keep the discussion focused on the topics and manage the personalities within the group in real-time to deliver the required evidence from the selected topics within the set duration of the meeting.
In the author’s experience, focus groups are both time and resource consuming; and, difficult to manage for the quality and quantity of data obtained. Additional factors include the vulnerable nature of the users involved and the increased opportunity for bias due the involvement of carers.
Cohen, L., L.Mannion, and K.Morrison 2007. Research methods in education. 6th ed. London, New York: Routledge.
Langford, J., McDonagh, D., 2003. Focus groups supporting effective product development. Taylor & Francis, London.
Morgan, D.L., 1997, Focus groups as qualitative research, second edition, qualitative research methods series 16, Sage, London
Wilson, J. R., and E. N. Corlett. 1995. Evaluation of human work: A practical ergonomics methodology. 2nd ed. London: Taylor & Francis.