How to design a Focus Group based research

1. How many groups are required? Organizing several groups enables trends and patterns to be identified when the data collected are analyzed (Saunders et al, 2003).  The figure may vary according to the research questions and, above all, the different population subgroups required (Morgan, 1988). However, if after the fourth group you are receiving new information it means that you have reached saturation (Krueger and Casey, 2000). Actually four or five are generally enough.

2. How many participants each? Between 4 and 8 and exceptionally up to 12. It strongly depends on three factors: skill of moderator, nature of participants, how complex the topic is.

3. How long does it take each session? From one to two hours, although it may vary according to how actives participants are. Actually, it may finish once the group has exhausted the discussion of a topic. How to know when a topic is exhausted? There are no criteria and it is the moderator who has to make his/her own decisions.

4. How to recruit participants? Focus group sampling is non-probabilistic, i.e. it does not aim to do inference afterward but just select participants from the population subgroup under study, normally your target. For instance, students from 20 to 25 years old. The selection process is commonly called “recruitment”. The person in charge of select participants, so called “recruiter” shouldn´t play the role of moderator too. The recruitment should be done by mean dial previous participants or following snowball methodology, i.e. contacting people through social networks who will lead recruiter to more people and subsequently. It is strongly recommendable to work with strangers instead of groups of friends or people who know each other very well, because the level of things taken for granted may lead to leave relevant information out (Morgan, 1988). Finally, institutional networks should be avoided.

5. What is the most appropriate location for a focus group? Neutral setting is required. Avoid noisy and crowded places that may interrupt the discussion ongoing. It is recommendable avoid saturated spaces, i.e. with many objects and staff since it may break the concentration of participants. An oval table is required. It assures that all participants can see each other and facilitate interaction. Some market research agencies count with specialized rooms for focus group. They count with viewing room next door that allows other researchers and sponsor watch the focus group. However, most of the groups are recorded both voices and video.


Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2008). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. SAGE Publications, Incorporated.
Morgan, D. L. (1988). Focus groups as qualitative research; Focus groups as qualitative research (No. 16). Sage Publications.
Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009

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