What’s in a Focus Group?

2 min readJan 16
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A focus group is a group discussion that is facilitated and recorded by a researcher. They were originally used for market research. In focus groups, the method is interaction, which may be facilitated with scheduled questions, topic guides, group exercises, and visual cueing. Focus groups can be useful in designing and clarifying questions for survey research. This chapter provides many examples of how focus groups have been used in social research. I am glad that there is information on focus groups online.

The benefit of conducting focus groups online is that they are more accessible and can reach broader audiences. Online focus groups can also harness anonymity for sensitive topics in a way a physical group cannot. Since focus groups are intended to collect data, sampling and participant selection are important considerations.

The ideal members of a focus group should homogeneously represent the selection criteria, but none of the participants will know each other. The execution of focus groups is just as important as the design and selection. While working as a general transcriptionist, I learned just how common it is to lose control of focus group data quality. Often, group members talk over each other, or individual speakers cannot be easily identified. Thus, the skills necessary to facilitate a focus group are more like professional meeting management.

Tonkiss, F. (2012b). Focus Groups. In C. Seale (Ed.), Researching Society and Culture (3rd ed, pp. 227–244). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications (Affiliate link).


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