Focus groups are structured small group interviews. The people that are being interviewed are similar in some way (e.g., same views on certain topics, different background, part of the same community, or same financial standing). The purpose of the interview is to gather information about a particular topic guided by a set of focused questions. Participants hear and interact with each other and the leader (facilitator), which yields different information than if people were interviewed individually.
The purpose of focus groups is to develop a broad and deep understanding rather than a quantitative summary. The emphasis is on insights, responses and opinions. Usually, there are eight to twelve participants. Multiple groups are recommended since each discussion is highly influenced by who is involved and the comments that surface. Focus groups typically run one to two hours. In some cases it could run a whole day or two.
For a focus group, you need to have a skillful facilitator (leader). You may want to use an outside party if you a familiar with participants, so that they may feel freer with their comments when they do not know the facilitator. Craft the set of questions and their order to flow as a natural conversation might. Limit the number of questions; sequence the questions from broad to very specific. Prepare an assistant to take notes, and with permission of the group arrange for the video or audio recording of the discussion. If you are recording the session, it’s best that people identify them selves’ before they speak, so that it’s easier for the transcriber to make the transcription of the document.
The interview should consist of three parts: opening, questions, and the wrap up.
In the opening section welcome everyone, make introductions, and thank the participants for coming and spending their time. Review the purpose of the focus group interview. Review the rules. Explain to the participants that there is no right or wrong answers. Even negative comments are useful in gaining the insight about the topic.
In the interview section guide the participants into the questioning, beginning with the general question first. As participants begin to share ideas, cycle through the group, ensuring that each participant has a chance to be heard. When comments related to one question are finished, summarize them, making sure there is agreement with the summary. Capitalize on unanticipated comments and useful directions the discussion may take. Probe and move flexibly into unplanned aspects of the topic but be careful about unnecessary or irrelevant divergences.
In the wrap up section summarize the discussion, give participants a chance to say one last thing about the topic, and what they thought was the important aspect of the conversation for them. Thank participants for joining you, and remind them how the information will be used. Offer to send them the transcript of the conversation once it’s available.
Once you have the recording higher a qualified transcription services company to work on your focus group transcript.