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Focus Group

Focus Group

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Published by: ASIF RAFIQUE BHATTI on Feb 07, 2010
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05/11/2014

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10 tips for running successful focusgroups
by Thomas L. Greenbaum
How often do we researchers take time to reflect on our work and identify the key lessons that might be useful toothers in the profession or considering entering it?I have spent most of the last 15 years moderating focusgroups on a wide variety of topics for more than 300different organizations. As a result, I have learned someimportant lessons about focus groups that I want to share:
1. You never can do too much planning for a focusgroup.
The effort put into advanced planning for a groupalways pays out in terms of the overall quality of theoutput from the process. This includes such thingsas the most appropriate recruitment parameters, thecontent and flow of the discussion guide and the"external stimuli" that are used to elicit reactionsfrom the participants.
2. Manage the recruitment process actively to be sure toget the right people in the groups.
Despite the good intentions of recruitmentorganizations throughout the country, the moderator has the ultimate responsibility for the quality of therespondents.Because the quality of the output from focus groupsdepends on having the right people in the room, Idecided years ago to invest in a full-time field professional to focus on this aspect. This enables meto concentrate on the actual focus group process,including developing the moderator guide,moderating groups and writing effective reports.
3. Don’t prejudge the participants based on physicalappearance.
 
I have found that the appearance of the people in thegroups generally has little relationship to howeffective they can be as participants. Further, a participant’s not having a great deal of formaleducation does not mean he or she does not have agreat deal to say about a key topic being evaluated.Clearly it is easier to conduct and watch focusgroups comprised of attractive, articulate, educated people. But it is vital to realize that thesecharacteristics are not necessarily critical togathering useful information.
4. The best focus group moderators bring objectivityand expertise in the process to a project.
Specific product knowledge should not be animportant criteria in selecting a moderator because awell-trained professional will take the time neededto learn enough about the topic being discussed to be an effective facilitator.An effective moderator must be able to draw peopleout in a group environment, listen well, interpret theresults of the sessions and communicate thoseresults effectively to the clients.
5. Achieving research objectives does not guarantee asuccessful focus group project.
Some clients only view groups that educate andentertain as an effective research tool. Others havedifferent research objectives that must beaccommodated before they will feel the process wasa success. These could include such things as thedecor and comfort of the focus group facilities andthe presentation of personally selected gourmet foodfor the client observers.
 
An effective moderator must be aware of thesefactors to have a satisfied client who will return.
6. Themoderatorand theclientshouldcoordinatetheirefforts atall stagesof theprocess fortheresearchto achieveitsobjectives.
For the moderator, this includes obtaining clientinput to the discussion guide and working withclient organizations to develop the most effectiveexternal stimuli.It also means regular communication between themoderator and the client observers who arewatching a group from behind the one-way mirror.This should take the form of face-to-facediscussions at regular intervals during the group,rather than random notes being sent into the room atthe whim of a backroom observer.Client observers need to be briefed about the mosteffective way to work with the moderator so thatduring the focus group session, minimal time isspent communicating the maximum amount of information.
7. Most client organizations conduct more focus groupsthan are necessary to achieve the research objectives.
It is not unusual for an organization to do eight, 10or 12 groups in a series when four or six would be

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