Re: setting up a focus group
In case you're not aware, there are books on the
subject (whose names, unfortunately, escape me). But
back when I was learning how to do it, I read up on
recruiting, setting up the agenda, and moderating
groups. Perhaps an Amazon search would be useful?
Here are my two techniques that I found useful:
1. The people watching the group behind the glass will
be tempted to leap to conclusions. Time after time my
clients would latch onto the two sentences that
supported their "pet" position, ignoring all the other
material from the 90 minutes, including contradictory
stuff. (And the guy next to him would focus on the two
sentences that supported his particular pet!)
Let's face it, focus groups are not very "scientific."
They are best used to elicit the *range* of opinions
out there, not to figure out the frequency of each
possibility. (The ideal is to use focus groups to learn
the range of opinions and then follow up with
quantitative research to determine the frequency of
these opinions.) But unfortunately, groups are often
the beginning and end of research and standalone
groups often serve as Rorschach tests in that clients
can read into them whatever they want.
I minimized this effect by working with the clients
ahead of time to make explicit the key issues that the
research was intended to answer. Of course, I prepared
the agenda in such a way as to address these issues.
But the new trick is that I prepared a companion
"observer form" that had a blank area for each major
issue...the observers behind the glass made uniform
notes as the session proceeded.
It was very interesting to see how the different
observers interpreted the focus group participants'
comments. But more to the point, I found that these
forms focused the post-session discussions among the
client sponsors and reduced the controversy (by
forcing the discussions to be more based on the
evidence of specific comments). In addition, the
completed observer forms dramatically reduced the
amount of work I had to do to produce a write up.
2. Sometimes I include exercises during the session
that the participants fill out on paper, prior to
discussing their responses as a group. Although groups
are excellent bringing the interplay of opinion and
ideas, sometimes the group latches onto the first
response given to a question and thus ignores
radically different ideas. By having participants write
down their responses first, the moderator can then
say, "OK, who has a very different response?"
Hope these ideas help.
Received on Tue Aug 29 2000 - 09:17:14 CDT
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