Is a focus group the tool to use?

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Is a focus group the tool to use?

This information is intended to be read with How to plan and run a focus group.

A focus group is a small group of people whose views and experiences will add to the information that you are collecting.  They aren’t necessarily considered to be representative of a broader group.

Focus groups are useful for:

  • a deeper understanding of people’s feelings, thoughts, experiences or beliefs
  • sharing control of information gathering with the people from whom you are getting the information − it is a participatory form of research
  • gathering information to inform the development of a survey
  • gathering information to add to and help understand other information you collect
  • collecting information for an evaluation that has a mixture of methods
  • enabling participation from people with literacy problems, and from children
  • obtaining information in people’s own words
  • getting really clear about what people mean because you can ask people to explain what they mean if you don’t understand, and you can ask follow-up questions
  • information that is easy for stakeholders to understand
  • getting information more quickly and cheaply than you could through a series of one-to-one interviews.

And the best thing is, they are really FLEXIBLE!

Focus groups do not:

  • give you information about how much progress an individual client or participant has made
  • give you a ‘random sample’ of people
  • enable you to extrapolate from the information you get to say ‘x% of people said this or that’
  • provide a good way of exploring private topics or things that people care very deeply about, because people will avoid talking about sensitive issues and they will avoid conflict
  • give reliable information on topics that produce extremely strong feelings.

So remember, you can’t assume that the views and experiences of people in the focus group represent those of other groups of people.