Focus groups can be defined as small interview groups that are structured. People who go through the interview usually have similar characteristics (e.g. different backgrounds with the same views on various topics, they could also be part of the same community or financial group). The main aim of the interview is to collect information about a certain topic that is guided by a set of focused questions. Participants listen and interact with each other as well as the facilitator or leader which usually results in different views as opposed to interviewing different people separately.
Purpose of the focus groups is to come up with a deeper understanding and broad view rather than get a quantitative summary. A lot of emphasis is put on opinions, responses and insights. Focus groups are normally made up of 8- 12 people. Multiple groups are normally encouraged as all the discussions are mostly influenced by the comments from the individuals who are involved. The discussions are normally held for about one or two hours. There are some special cases however when it can last the whole day or two.
It is important to have a skilful leader or facilitator to handle the focus group. An outsider can be used especially if you are familiar with the participants so that they can be comfortable enough to address their views. The questions should be set in such a way that the conversation flows naturally. Do not ask too many questions and they should be classified as broad or specific. When recording the sessions always make sure that the speakers identify themselves before they go ahead and speak. This is usually easier for the transcription process.
The interview usually consists of 3 parts: opening, questions and conclusion.
The opening section is supposed to welcome all the participants, introductions and thanking them for attending the focus group. Purpose of the focus group should be reviewed so that people are in the same page. Don’t brush away negative comments as they help to provide insight on the topic.
Remember to guide all the participants through the questioning part so that there are no confusions.
When it comes to the conclusion part, this is where things that were being discussed are wrapped up. This is done by summarizing the discussion and giving the participants the chance to say their last words. Finish off by thanking the participants for spending their time in the discussion and offer to give them transcribed material once it is available. More on Focus group transcription.