RPG Research Catalog

Focus Groups

Focus groups are one of the most widely-used methods of qualitative research, and with good reason – they allow researchers to collect a large variety of data in a short period of time while the client sits behind the
scenes and observes. Focus groups are great for gathering general reactions to questions and for studying reactions to diverse opinions.

Focus groups can be set up in many ways, but they generally involve bringing between six to twelve respondents together in a physical room, on a conference call, or a virtual online “room” and having a moderator sit with them and ask questions. At the end of the session, clients are able to have the moderator
ask additional questions to probe the attitudes, ideas and interests of group members.

There are many varieties of focus groups, and each method has its own advantages. Ultimately, focus groups are about discussion. Respondents are asked to offer their own opinions about topics under study, but they are also asked to respond to the ideas that others are offering.

One of the advantages of focus groups is that each group can include a different makeup of respondents to ensure that multiple perspectives are considered. In order to generate useful data, we recommend that at least two groups are used for any variation. (This helps to alleviate concerns about bias specific to an individual group.)

Traditional Focus Group

A traditional focus group involves bringing participants into a physical room somewhere (either in a professional research facility, a hotel conference room, or some other location of the client’s choosing), sitting around a table, and having a discussion. Clients typically observe from behind one-way glass or a live video feed. Audio and video recordings are also made for those who cannot attend.

Advantages
•Distractions can be controlled for, ensuring participants are focused on the discussion.
•Written exercises and creative activities are easiest to conduct and collect.
•Product concepts and ideas can be shared and tested with a group easily and securely.

Telephone Focus Group

A telephone focus group involves bringing participants into a special telephone conference call. The moderator uses a computerized dashboard to see who is speaking and to keep the discussion under control.

Observers are also able to dial in and listen to the call with muted lines.

Advantages
• Respondents can participate from anywhere in the world.
• Respondents participate from a comfortable setting and may be more candid about their feelings.
• Costs are typically less than a traditional focus group since travel expenses, facility fees and refreshments are not needed.

Social Network Focus Group

Also known as “focus blogs,” this style of focus group allows respondents to participate at their own convenience. Each respondent is given access to a special Web site where they are required to answer questions posed by a moderator over several days. Respondents are also able to respond with images, links to outside Web sites, videos and other rich media. Observers log in at any time and watch the conversation unfold.

Advantages
•Respondents can participate from any Web-enabled PC.
•Respondents have more time to offer deep responses and are able to
think through their answers at their own pace.
•They can also demonstrate emotion with rich content.

Online Video Focus Group

An online video focus group involves bringing four to eight people into a special video chat session using a Web-enabled computer, a webcam and a telephone. Observers log in to a special dashboard and are able to watch the group and offer real-time comments to the moderator.

Advantages
• Respondents can be recruited without as many concerns about geography or ease of access to a physical setting.
• Respondents participate from a comfortable setting and may be more candid about their feelings.
• The visual format allows for concepts and ideas to be tested. • Participants often appreciate the novelty of high-tech video
conferencing.
• Costs are typically less than a traditional focus group since
travel expenses, facility fees and refreshments are not needed.

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