A focus group is a type of group interview designed to explore peoples attitudes.
It can be used to find out what issues are of most concern for a community or group when little or no information is available. They are a very common technique but are can be poorly executed unless well planned and facilitated.
"Focus groups aim to discover the key issues of concern for selected groups. Discovering these issues can help determine which of a number of options is the preferred way forward, or to determine what are the concerns that would prevent a proposal going ahead. The focus group may also be undertaken to discover preliminary issues that are of concern to a group or community, and on which to base further research or consultation.
Focus groups should deliver detailed knowledge of the issues that concern a specific demographic or community." (Department of Sustainability and Environment, 2005)
Moderating focus groups [30:13 minute video on YouTube]
Richard Krueger and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota prepared this short video in 2004 to demonstrate a focus group interview. The video illustrates some of the techniques used when moderating. You can find more resources on focus groups by Richard Kruegar on his website.
Advice for choosing this method
- A focus groups enables a group of people to discuss an issue in a structured manner.
- Keep in mind that sometimes it is difficult to recruit people
Advice for using this method
Careful consideration needs to be given to:
- Who attends – normally a homogenous group of 8-12 people who are randomly selected.
- What are the questions – typically about six questions are discussed, the first being general and then these become more specific
- Facilitation skills with the moderator leading the discussion by asking open ended questions while managing group dynamics
- Recording and reporting – often tapes or videos record the discussion
Focus groups are useful for probing a topic in-depth and generally last about 1.5 – 2 hours.
Page 39 of this resource provides detailed estimations of the costs, time and resources needed to employ this method. It also provides a step-by-step practical guide for its application.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (2005), Book 3: The Engagement Toolkit. Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders, The Community Engagement Network Resource and Regional Services Division Victorian Government Department of Sustainability and Environment. Retrieved from http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/105825/Book_3_-_The_Engagement_Toolkit.pdf
'Focus groups' is referenced in:
- Rainbow Framework :