“The act of listening requires a submersion of the self and immersion in the other. This isn’t always easy.” Michael P. Nichols
Focus groups capture people’s underlying feelings, explanations, and motivations across a wide range of topics and cultural settings . . . information critical to understanding the issues.
It requires a lot of detailed planning for focus group discussions to generate high quality information – a lot more than you’d think. It also helps to know which type of focus group works best for your population. Depending on the situation, topic, and participant characteristics, I help you choose the most appropriate focus group approach:
- Face-to-Face Focus Groups
- Telephone Focus Groups
- Asynchronous Online Focus Groups
- e-Delphi Focus Groups
Once we understand your information needs, I work with you to determine how many groups to conduct, who to include/exclude, what questions to ask, how to conduct the analysis and summarize the data, and how to report out valid and trustworthy findings.
Face-to-Face Focus Groups
Face-to-face groups are the traditional and often preferred method due to the opportunity they afford for maximizing group interaction and capturing facial expressions and gestures. Unlike market research focus group firms, I go into the community to conduct focus groups during times and in locations that are most convenient for participants.
Telephone Focus Groups
Telephone focus groups are particularly useful when the project requires the inclusion of participants from a large or remote geographic area, or it when it requires the inclusion of people who have extremely demanding schedules that do not allow them to get away for a 90-minute in-person focus group. Phone groups are generally smaller in number and shorter in length, but are otherwise conducted according to the same parameters as face-to-face-groups.
Asynchronous Online Focus Groups
Asynchronous online focus groups enable participants to comment not only at a place that is most convenient for them but also at a time that fits their schedule. I set up a discussion forum (bulletin board) for invited participants to use in the online discussion. Though asynchronous online groups do not allow for group interaction, the threaed discussion allows participant to thoughtfully examine and review others’ comments before making a comment of their own.
e-Delphi Focus Groups
An e-Delphi focus group is a form of online focus group. As opposed to a continuous discussion thread, the set of Delphi responses from Round One (of a typical 3-Rpound Delphi) are summarized into major themes and returned to participants for further discussion. This gives participants the opportunity to react to the entire set of responses, whether to confirm, add nuance, or change their mind about what they said originally. As the moderator, I develop new questions from Round One responses for Round Two and proceed for as many rounds as required to fully understand the topic — usually three or four rounds.
Nominal Group Technique
Nominal groups are like focus groups but a lot more structured. Using a systematic round-robin approach, every person in the group is asked to answer every question. This gives all individuals – quiet or talkative; reflective or spontaneous – the opportunity to formulate their unique opinions on every issue and respond thoughtfully. It combines the best aspects of quantitative (survey) and qualitative (focus group) methodologies in that individuals work alone to conceive their answers but they do it within a group environment that stimulates each person’s thinking and maximizes the quality of their responses.