Focus groups or group discussions are useful to further explore a topic, providing a broader understanding of why the target group may behave or think in a particular way, and assist in determining the reason for attitudes and beliefs. They are conducted with a small sample of the target group and are used to stimulate discussion and gain greater insights.
Focus groups and group discussions are advantageous as they:
- are useful when exploring cultural values and health beliefs
- can be used to examine how and why people think in a particular way and how this influences their beliefs and values
- can be used to explore complex issues
- can be used to develop hypothesis for further research
- do not require participants to be literate.
Disadvantages of focus groups include:
- lack of privacy/anonymity
- having to carefully balance the group to ensure they are culturally and gender appropriate (i.e. gender may be an issue)
- potential for the risk of ‘group think’ (not allowing for other attitudes, beliefs etc.)
- potential for group to be dominated by one or two people
- group leader needs to be skilled at conducting focus groups, dealing with conflict, drawing out passive participants and creating a relaxed, welcoming environment
- are time consuming to conduct and can be difficult and time consuming to analyse.
You can contact SiREN for personalised advice on how to develop and implement a focus group and analyse findings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Running focus groups
The Community Tool Box developed this resource to support you to learn how to plan, prepare, conduct, and use focus group results to receive qualitative data for deeper understanding of community issues.
Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group
This resource will step you through how to develop focus group questions, recruit participants, undertake the focus group and analyse the data collected.
The Better Evaluation website has detailed information on how to undertake focus groups.
- Hawe, P., Degeling, D., Hall, J. 1990. Evaluating health promotion: A Health Worker’s Guide, MacLennan & Petty, Sydney.
- Taket A. 2010. In Liamputtong L (ed). Research methods in health: Foundations for evidence-based practice. Oxford University Press: South Melbourne.