There are a number of broad advantages to the use of the focus group. These may be summarized as follows:
1. Group basis. They are an economical way of tapping the views of a number of people, simply because respondents are interviewed in groups rather than one by one (Krueger, 1994)
2. They can provide a “safe” forum for the expression of views, e.g. respondents do not feel obliged to respond to every question (Vaughn et al., 1996)
3. Simulation of everyday interaction. Focus group provides information on the “dynamics” of attitudes and opinions in the context of the interaction that occurs between participants, in contrast to the rather static way in which these phenomena are portrayed in questionnaire (Morgan, 1988) or in-depth interview studies. Top of that, such interacion may well be comparable in any way with everyday ineraction (Flick, 2009) and this is actually the point of the focus group, i.e. a simulation of everyday reality. It is attempted to collect the data in context and to create a situation of interaction that comes closer to everyday life than in an interview.
4. They may encourage a greater degree of spontaneity in the expression of views than alternative methods of data collection (Butler, 1996)
5. Check, balance and consistence. Interaction is not only between interviewee and interviewer (moderator) but among all participants. It increases the dynamic of the discussion which favors checks and balance among participants and “weeds out false or extreme views” (Flick, 2009). Somehow they correct each other. Additionally, it may provide with greater consistence to the focus group conclusions as long as all participants agree on a specific topics.
6. Participants may feel supported and empowered by a sense of group membership and cohesiveness (Goldman, 1962)
7. Less risk of bias by the interviewer. The interaction interviewer-interviewee always drives a risk of bias. Even when interviewer has a lot of experience, the responses are sometimes affected by the mere presence of an unknown person. This risk decreases in a focus group. Despite the obvious presence of the interviewer or so called moderator, the tendency is him/her to occupy a non-predominant role. Actually the moderator´s role is rather facilitate the group own dynamic and avoid that one person dominate the discussion. It depends on the research objectives but in some cases, the less involved the moderator, the better (Ibañez, 1986).
Despite the organization of a focus group may be seen as a simple meeting to discuss on a specific topic and so that doable even for non-experience researcher, most of the advantages above highlighted strongly depends on a number of issues to be cover in futures posts, such as the focus group design, group composition or the role played by the moderator. Bear in mind that a “well-conducted focus group research can determine the course of your company’s future” (Edmunds and Edmonds, 1999)
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Goldman, A. E. (1962). The group depth interview. The Journal of Marketing, 61-68.
Merton, R., Fisk, M., & Kendall, P. (1956). The focused interview: a report of the bureau of applied social research. New York: Columbia University.
Ragin, C. C. (1994). Introduction to qualitative comparative analysis. The comparative political economy of the welfare state, 299, 300-9.
Article updated on 24th of April 2014