Focus Groups as a type of Qualitative Research

focus-group

richard-a-kruegerIn our Marketing Research and Strategy class this week, we focused on qualitative research and especially looked at focus groups and how they fit into qualitative research. For this week’s blog, I watched a YouTube video from Richard A. Krueger, who is a Ph. D. at the University of Minnesota as he talks about focus groups in a video titled “Moderating focus groups”. In this video, Krueger gives some pretty interesting insights in what focus groups are, what the steps are in order to conduct a focus group, and provides us with some tips on how to moderate a focus group.

Setting up a focus group takes more preparation than I actually thought when I first heard about this type of qualitative research. The steps of setting up a focus group as identified by Krueger include:

Before the focus group meeting:

  1. Identify the relevant participants
  2. Recruiting these participants to attend
  3. Arrange for the logistics
  4. Develop the questions that will be asked during the focus group

On the day of the focus group meeting:

  1. Make sure everything is set up correctly
    • Arrive early in order to check out the room and recording equipment needed that day
    • Name tags are placed in the appropriate spots so people know where to sit. People who were identified as talkative are place close to the microphone, while other are placed directly across
  2. People arrive and are welcomed upon their arrival

Starting the focus group meeting:

  1. Short introduction that includes:
    • Welcome and introduction of the topic
    • Background on the topic
    • Ground rules for the focus group
    • Opening question
  2. Participants introduce themselves
  3. Questions are asked and the participants answer, discuss, and interact with each other
    • Moderator interacts by trying to include everyone in the discussion
    • Some topics are addressed through role plays, using lists on which the participants write down several things which will all come together on a flip chart, the use of hand gestures or writing down words on small pieces of paper, and projections where participants assign objects or animals to certain topics that would represent their thought on these topics

Concluding the focus group meeting:

  1. Ask participant to reflect and indicate what they thought were the most important things that were talked about
  2. The moderator often addresses the assistant moderator to ask her about any questions that were important in the meeting and to give a very short summary on what has been discussed
  3. Assistant moderator turns to the group and asks for confirmation on their answers
  4. Moderator closes the focus group meeting

After the focus group meeting:

  1. Doing the analysis and preparing a report

 

Tips:

  1. Short pauses of about 5 seconds. This allows participants to reflect and think and gives them a chance to express their thoughts
  2. If one of the participants talks to much, which interferes with the chance of other participants presenting their thoughts, you can solve this by:
    • Stop taking notes
    • Stop making eye contact with the person talking too much and make eye contact with the other participants
    • If the participant still keeps talking, then you find a pause in order to interrupt him/her and turn the attention to the others
  3. In order to get someone to talk, the moderator often looks at them while posing a question or calls on them and invite their comments
  4. The use of role play is particularly effective when you are trying to get people to discuss complex ideas. Afterwards, the other participants are asked about any comments on the role play that just took place
  5. Using list can also be very effective to address difficult topics. The use of lists is used to identify large numbers of items to then quickly identify which items of this larger number are the most relevant to participants. Each participant makes a list of their thoughts on a particular topic, which are then all written down on a flip chart. Once the complete list is on the flip chart, participants are asked which ones they consider the most important ones
  6. Rating sheets which list possible answers/situations to a topic that participants will then rate based on their own experience. The answers are then again reflected on a flip chart
  7. Rapid feedback can be achieved through the use of hand gestures by participants or writing words on pieces of paper allows you to get quick information from people. This information is designed to figure out the reasons why something might be happening. The answers to the questions posed are repeated out loud by the moderator so they appear on the recording and allow the assistant moderator to make quick notes
  8. Projection by the use of animals or objects in order to find out what something might present. In this case, it is important that participants explain why they are choosing this object or animal

 

What I thought was particularly interesting in this video from Richard A. Krueger was that at the beginning the participants seem to be talking directly to the moderator. But as the focus group cares on this changes mostly automatically to the participants talking to each other. If this is not directly the case the moderator will try to change this so the participants interact more with each other and the moderator becomes more of an observant. Also, at certain moments participants start to get comfortable talking within the group. When this occurs, moderators encourage this and allow people to talk across the table to each other. Finally, I realized that there is a lot more to conducting a focus group that just asking questions. Like Krueger said, you have to think about what has been said, what is been discussed at the moment, and even what is possibly going to be said later on.

Through the information received in our lectures about focus groups and analyzing this video, I definitely became a lot more knowledgeable about focus groups and the effectiveness. At first I was a little skeptical about their effectiveness, because I thought a lot of bias would be related to it. After watching the video, I think I can conclude the exact opposite of what I first thought. Focus group meetings can actually be very beneficial to qualitative research for a company. One of the main reasons for this is that the actual company the focus group meeting is organized for is kept “secret”. Another reason is that it is the moderator’s job to create an atmosphere where participants feel comfortable addressing their true feelings and experiences and kind of forget about why they are really there.

I can’t really say that I disliked anything about the focus group simulation that was shown in the video. The only thing that I might have changed is the setting. I thought the setting was pretty plain and a little to formal. If I would have been one of the participants in this focus group, I think I would feel more like I was in an actual business meeting which would directly change my behavior into a more formal way of acting. I would pay more attention to the way I express myself, which could possibly cause bias in my answers.

This YouTube video by Richard A. Krueger is definitely worth watching if you are even planning in partaking in a focus group as moderator and even as participant.

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One thought on “Focus Groups as a type of Qualitative Research

  1. Great analysis of the video. I thought watching a focus group in action would help with understanding how it works. Your recommendation of a more comfortable environment is spot-on. I agree that the formal setting could adversely affect how the participants act, which is something the moderating is watching as well. I’m interested to see if your team utilizes this qualitative method, and how your experience with it goes. pc

    Like

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