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What Is a Qualitative Research Focus Group?

Article Details
  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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A qualitative research focus group is a collection of people recruited by a business in order to give advice and candid feedback on a product, marketing strategy, or other large-scale campaign. The main mission of a qualitative focus group is to provide personal reactions to a company’s portfolio of market research. Group members lend their own thoughts, reactions, and experiences to statistical data. Corporations use the group’s input to tailor their outward appearance and shift their public strategy.

Companies collect market research for a host of different reasons. Some involve product marketing; knowing the client base and its expectations is an important part of success in sales. Building consumer trust and promoting an image of strength and reliability is also essential for companies in the finance and investing industry. Political lobbying groups and campaign organizers also find the public’s input invaluable. For these and other purposes, a qualitative research focus group is one of the best and most affordable solutions.

Focus groups are usually designed to be representative of a company’s target audience. A typical group contains between 15 and 20 members chosen for their ethnic, socioeconomic, or educational backgrounds. The groups meet together in a neutral location and discuss an issue, evaluate a product, or provide feedback on slogans or specific marketing material.

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There are many different ways of using the qualitative research focus group in business. The most straightforward group meets once or maybe twice to discuss a common issue. More complex models require more meetings. Sometimes, depending on what is being discussed, multiple groups will meet simultaneously.

Companies may elect to split qualitative research focus group participants into a control group, a nominative group, and an advisory group. Each would be given a slightly different list of considerations, or different questions to ponder. Their results would then be combined and amalgamated to provide relevant data.

An essential part of the qualitative research focus group is the focus group moderator. The moderator is typically a professional whose job is to keep the group’s discussion on track, to introduce provocative or thinking questions, and to prevent any one member from dominating the conversation. Guidance from moderators is often the only way that researchers can directly interact with participants.

Most of the time, focus group proceedings are either recorded or observed in real time by researchers. The researchers will then spend time analyzing focus groups and the thoughts and ideas raised from a distance. If they need additional information, they will often call the group back or have the moderator contact individual members for one-on-one interviews.

Focus groups are increasingly moving online, though not without some market skepticism. An online focus group operates on much the same model as an in-person group: that is, members gather at the same time, at the same Internet address, and participate in a moderated conversation. The level of candid interaction is not always the same when participants are located remotely, however, and the qualitative research gleaned from chat room discussions is not always given the same weight as that collected from in-person sessions.

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