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How to Conduct a Focus Group Discussion Effectively

Focus group discussions, often known as FGDs, are a frequent (and occasionally misused) technique of data collecting that you should be familiar with if you work in social research or study research procedures. The discussion’s output validates or confirms the findings of surveys that were created to provide answers to the research questions you are interested in, in addition to eliciting suggestions that will help you answer or narrow down your research topic.

What are focus groups, when should you use them, and how to conduct a focus group discussion? What ethical standards ought to be followed? These queries are addressed in this article.

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Focus Group Discussion Definition

FGD is also known as focused group discussion because the discussion is centered on issues that require input from numerous stakeholders. It may also refer to the “focus group,” or to people who are deemed appropriate to participate in discussing the problems brought up by the researcher.

FGD is just a conversation between a chosen group of four to eight people about issues and concerns. It acts as a forum to affirm and scrutinize the participants’ opinions and elicit their experiences in order to help them reach an understanding of the study topic. Using a set of questions created by the researcher, a skilled moderator directs the debate.

How to Conduct a Focus Group Discussion

What Functions Do Focus Groups Serve?

Focus group research is employed to create or enhance goods and services. The major objective is to offer information to improve, modify, or develop a product or service that is aimed at a crucial client segment. Focus group interview preparation and clearly stated objectives will determine how valuable the information gained will be.

What are the Types of Focus Groups?

Focus groups can be used for just about anything, including idea generation, client satisfaction, and product development. Therefore, a well-planned focus group with clear objectives can help flush out the answers, whether your firm is establishing a new website, seeking input on the customer service of the organization, or simply attempting to uncover new methods to improve the employee experience.

How Many Individuals Should Attend a Focus Group?

Having too many individuals can limit the ability to collect ideas from all participants, which is the primary objective of putting people together: to get as many different thoughts and viewpoints as possible. Remember that in this situation, more isn’t always better. Depending on the target population and the subject of the study, a group of 8–10 participants is the appropriate size. 12 to 15 people can be in a group, but it takes a skilled moderator to lead that many people. Participants in focus groups should be chosen based on their knowledge with a product, service, or buying habits. A good response mix of perspectives and ideas should be ensured by facilitating three or four distinct groups.

How are FGD Contributors Selected?

A series of guidelines or criteria are used to choose the FGD participants so that they can provide information that is valuable or pertinent to the study’s goals. Understanding the participants’ backgrounds is necessary for this. Therefore, it is standard procedure to contact managers, community leaders, residents who have lived in the community for a while, or someone who is familiar with the operations of an organization before holding a FGD.

For instance, if dynamite fishing in coral reefs is the subject of a study on coastal resource use, participants to look for would include representatives from the groups of fishers, fish traders, former dynamite fishermen, law enforcement, explosives suppliers, local policy makers, non-government organizations or associations, among others who have direct or indirect transactions in the community. Avoid bias when choosing participants, such as not selecting anybody who is difficult to reach or preferring a particular political group.

FGD Example Questions

The FGD will mostly focus on concerns related to illicit fishing in coral reefs, such as the following examples:

  • What types of fish are the illicit fishermen targeting?
  • How do the smugglers obtain their explosives?
  • How much money do the dynamite fishermen make from what they do?
  • Why, in spite of being against it, do the dynamite fishers still engage in this unlawful activity?
  • What dangers come with fishing with dynamite?
  • How often and at what time of day do the dynamite fishermen go fishing?
  • From where do the “dynamite fishers” come?

Of course, the final questions will depend on the data you hope to elicit from the participants. The FGD gives you the chance to consider the variables you’ll use and narrow the scope of the quantitative (if any) portion of your research.

You might want to link the income of fishermen to how frequently they fish for dynamite. Alternately, you might want to estimate the costs and advantages of dynamite fishing from the angler’s perspective. They say the goal justifies the means.

How to Conduct a Focus Group Discussion

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How to Conduct a Focus Group Discussion

The following materials are required to run a focus group.

HUMAN RESOURCES

1. A facilitator or moderator with training.

The moderator may not always be the researcher, but rather someone with knowledge of the topics under discussion. He should therefore consult the researcher before running the FGD process. He ought to be well-versed in the backgrounds of the participants and refrain from interjecting himself or engaging in conflict with them during the debate. He introduces and explains the questions, clarifies the points made, confirms the answers, and encourages the presentation of ideas, among other related tasks. At the conclusion of the conversation, he outlines the procedure.

2. A Recorder.

The note-taker keeps track of the FGD’s development. He includes not only the participants’ spoken ideas but also their actions or non-verbal expressions. He occasionally explains things by calling the moderator’s attention to things that are unclear. In the sake of transparency, he gives the participants a copy of the transcripts.

The moderator’s and note-taker’s skill and attention to detail have a significant impact on the quality of the material acquired during the FGD. For best results, there should be a good connection between the research team and the participants so that they would feel comfortable speaking openly about their thoughts.

MATERIALS

During the FGD, the following items should be made available:

1. Material For Recording.

Always keep a regular notepad and pencil or pen on hand. In an urban setting, everything electronic—laptops, tablets, cameras, MPEG recorders, or cameras—will function. However, in FGDs held in remote locations, things are different. These devices can be used to capture data in the field, but they have a number of potential flaws, including low batteries, breakage while traveling, submersion and damage while wading through a river, among others. Electronic data recording devices should be shock and/or weather resistant if they are truly desired.

2. Group Memory

The participants can refer to collective memory as the discussion is going on. The participants concentrate their attention on this list of attention-grabbing questions and answers. If you’d like, you might also use a mini-projector, a whiteboard, or a set of Manila paper with pre-written questions.

3. A List of Attendees.

You need this since it provides as proof that you actually conducted the FGD if you conduct research for someone else (say, as a consultant) or in order to fulfill the requirements of your thesis. If you need to go back and explain anything, this will also make it easier for you to locate your respondents.

4. GPS, or the Global Positioning System.

This will make it easier for you to find the location of the FGD. This is helpful information for anyone who want to do a follow-up investigation in a comparable setting.
In addition to satisfying an academic requirement, the data from the FGD can be used for management and policy-making. It may result in a consensus on some contentious issues and an assessment of the success of a project or program in the target community.

The Problems with Focus Groups Discussion

Focus groups are an established research technique, yet holding them costs a lot of money. The following are some key drawbacks of focus groups:

1. Costlier to Carry Out Than Surveys

Because people frequently assume they will be paid to participate in focus groups, they are more expensive than market surveys. As a result, it costs money to create the set of questionnaires, and participants and researchers also need to be paid extra.

2. Participants Aren’t Free to Express Their Opinions

You constantly get the “feeling” of being watched in focus groups. It can be challenging for introverted people to speak their minds freely. As a result, the information is of poor quality, and the investment is squandered.

3. It’s Challenging to Find Honest Opinions on Touchy Subjects

Focus groups are ineffective when discussing sensitive subjects since participants are reluctant to provide answers. Therefore, it is difficult to get people to give their honest opinion. Additionally, because useful information is difficult to get by, the moderator facilitating the debate may be dubious regarding the perspectives of the participants.

4. Biased Results

Due to their bias and propensity for providing answers that are motivated, focus groups have evolved into a standard approach for doing market research. Participants may alter their perceptions consciously or unconsciously in an effort to avoid disappointing the moderator. Focus groups may therefore give inaccurate information about your product or service.

5. May Not Exactly Comprise Your Target Audience

Focus groups only include a sample of the audience, which does not accurately reflect society. It’s possible that the participants’ perspectives do not reflect those of society at large. Therefore, it is always necessary to do extra study to confirm focus group findings.

6. Not the Best for B2B Research

Compared to B2B conversations, B2C focus group discussions are easier to organize. Participants can be difficult to persuade to provide their opinions on B2B items since experts are difficult to persuade. Additionally, they might ask for a sizable payment in exchange for their thoughts. Furthermore, because these disputes frequently feature intense exchanges, it could be difficult to foster an environment conducive to constructive discussion. Last but not least, a skilled moderator is needed to manage the participants’ perspectives in a way that yields insightful results.

How to Conduct a Focus Group Discussion

Frequently Asked Questions

What does FGD intend to achieve?

A focus group discussion (FGD) is a technique for gathering qualitative data that brings people from the community together to talk about a particular subject. Open-ended inquiries are used to elicit casual conversation and delve further into respondents' opinions than is feasible through a survey.

How can you maximize FGD’s effectiveness?

The ideal length of a FGD is 60 to 90 minutes. It is frequently challenging to adequately examine the discussion topic in FGDs that are less than 60 minutes long. The FGD may become ineffective (as participants grow weary) and begin to intrude on participants' time if it lasts more than 90 minutes.

What is the FGD’s power?

Information on a group/community level is provided through FGDs. The benefit of a FGD is that it provides a place for debate among participants, allowing for the discovery of fresh insights and explanations that might not have surfaced during a one-on-one or home interview.

Conclusion

A focus group discussion (FGD) is a useful method for bringing together individuals with comparable backgrounds or experiences to talk about a particular topic of interest. A moderator (or group facilitator) leads the participants’ group, introducing discussion topics and assisting the group in having a dynamic, organic conversation among themselves.

The effectiveness of FGD depends on allowing participants to agree or disagree with one another so that it can reveal how a group thinks about a topic, the diversity of opinions and ideas, and the inconsistencies and variation that exist in a given community in terms of beliefs, their experiences, and their practices.

FGDs can be used to investigate the meanings of survey results that cannot be statistically explained, the diversity of viewpoints on a subject of interest, and to gather a wide range of local slang. FGD can be helpful in bridging research and policy by giving an insight into the various viewpoints among the various parties participating in the change process, allowing the process to be handled more effectively. Additionally, it is a useful technique to use before creating questionnaires.

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