Focus Group Dynamics

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Focus Groups are a key qualitative research methodology. A qualitative project is likely to involve a number of focus groups with men and women of different ages, social classes and interests to make sure that the views of all relevant people are taken into account. Most groups comprise six to eight people who come together to discuss a topic in an open and relatively informal but task-focused atmosphere.

Focus groups work best when the participants are of a similar age and social status and have a shared interest in the topic being discussed. Mixed gender groups work well in many situations but there are occasions when single gender groups are preferable.

Focus groups generally follow a number of  dynamic steps common to most group interactions:

Forming: Occurs early in the session or as soon as people meet in the reception area. People look for things they have in common and chat superficially. The researcher might ask behavioural questions at this stage to help proceedings get under way such as the most recent supermarket visit, car insurance renewal, etc.

Storming: Storming is the stage at which group members are finding out who is who. Rivalry can develop within the group. There are power and control issues at play. It is better that the group members resolve conflict amongst themselves to avoid future dependence on researcher’s authority. The researcher should allow people to know it is safe to disagree and create a climate in which differeing points of view can be openly discussed.

Norming: At this stage the group is settling down. Individuals take on specific roles within the group and take on responsibility. The group is now ready to perform.

Performing: The group wants to work at this stage. The researcher can introduce projective techniques and other tasks. Sometimes, when a new task is introduced the group may revert back to the norming or storming stage to overcome anxieties.This is not unusual and the group will arrive back at the performing stage with guidance. Failure to recognise that a groups is stuck can result in the group turning against the moderator or going off on tangents to avoid dealing with something that is confusing or hard to understand.

Closing: The end of the group. Often overlooked due to time constraints or a researcher getting all the information required.The group dynamic which has formed needs time to break up.This is a time for people to reveal if they have anything more to say. An opportunity for mutual congratulations and thanks.

In the hands of a skilled researcher focus groups constitute a rich vein of insight and guidance. At The Research Centre our expertise guarantees that both clients and consumers have a rewarding and mutually respectful experience.

To organise your next focus group project or to learn how focus groups can work for you call Colm Carey on +35387-2573346 / +3531-2881884  or contact us here