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Published on Dec 26, 2016
ECO Project (Erasmus +).
1. WHAT IS A FOCUS GROUP? A focus group is a form of qualitative research, in which a group of people are asked about their opinions, beliefs and attitudes on a given topic.
The discussion is focused, in that it is restricted to the topic to be covered. It is a group activity, meant to be interactive and to enhance collective participation.
In a focus group, participants are free to talk and express their thoughts within a conversation among peers.
2. WHAT IS A FOCUS GROUP MEANT FOR? A focus groups aims at providing an insight into a group's opinions, attitudes and belief. That is the reason why it is often used in marketing research, as well as in psychology and sociology. The strength of this methodology lies in the possibility of letting opinions and attitudes emerge spontaneously, through interaction in an informal setting. Therefore, a focus group gives the researcher access to inner group dynamics, which would be difficult to observe in an arranged setting. Focus group represents a likely approximation to what happens in a spontaneous setting.
In general terms, focus groups are aimed at small samples. This is an important difference with regard to quantitative methods, such as surveys and questionnaires, aimed at examining large sets of data. A focus group is usually meant to explore small quantities of data, or even a single case, which is not necessarily likely to be generalized, but rather explored in a very detailed manner.
3. PRACTICAL TIPS ON HOW TO CONDUCT A FOCUS GROUP A focus group involves a limited amount of participants (usually 8 to 12), in order to make interaction accessible to every member.
According to the aim and purpose of the research, groups may be homogeneous (e.g. in terms of age, class, income etc.) or not; they may be already known to each other, or not.
A focus group usually lasts from 1 to 2 hours. Researcher may take notes during the interaction, yet it is highly recommended for data to be audio- or video-recorded, then transcribed, in order for them to be as authentic as possible.
The setting should be designed in order to put participants at ease, e.g. by having them sat around a table, face-to-face, in a well-lit room.
Although a focus group is meant to be an interaction among peers, the presence of a moderator is required to make sure that the conversation stays focused on the given topic and to promote interaction.
Moderators can be more or less directive, according to the aims and purposes of the research: e.g., they can be simply observers, and allow the conversation to flow freely, or otherwise provide a set of questions, in order to highlight the most important points to be covered. They may also introduce research and create the right climate among participants. In general terms, moderators should be impartial and unobtrusive, and try not to influence participants with their own opinions.
In our case, a focus group will be employed in order to cross-check data obtained via other methodologies, namely a quantitative one, such as a survey.