Focus groups are a qualitative and exploratory research technique, which is aimed at exploring new fields and questions from the perspective of the participants. The goal is to examine how knowledge and ideas develop and operate in the relevant group, rather than comparing potential results of individuals, as in a quantified research method.
Focus groups obtain data by the explicit use of group interaction that would be less accessible without the group arrangement and thus are able to include forms of social influence. Generally, focus groups consists of purposely selected group of 6 -12 individuals that represent target groups and stakeholders.
The group members are led through an open discussions of relevant topics by a moderator. The open conversation allows the researchers to observe a large amount of interaction on a topic in a limited period of time. Individuals are able to express and showcase their feelings and underlying thoughts on the relevant topic in a non-restricted way. As a consequence, a conversation develops, which can be a much richer source of information than a standardized questionnaire with predefined answer-options.
It is important to have a qualified moderator in order to elicit the full range of thoughts, opinions, wants and needs of the group and avoid peer pressured one sided answers. The questions have to be designed to gather honest and insightful responses, not the desired responses.The procedure and evaluation are very time-consuming due to the open structure and open results. In return, you get an insight into how the target group and stakeholder think about research-relevant topics and detailed information in a previously unknown area, such as fears, wishes and intentions when introducing a new technology.
Highly applicable to new research fields and new technologies, which can be showcased to a defined group in a closed setting using a demonstration prototype. Useful to elicit first responses but also better understand the potential social interaction that is created by the technology.