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Focus Groups

In the focused group interview, a small number of individuals (8-12) are brought together. The focus group setting attempts to have the comments of each person considered in group discussion. Each individual is thereby exposed to the ideas of the others and submits his or her ideas to the group for consideration (Churchill, 1987). The participants are selected because they have certain characteristics in common that relate to the topic of the focus group.

The interaction among the group members is only loosely directed by the group interviewer, called the moderator. Focus groups are currently one of the most frequently used techniques in marketing research; they have proven productive for:

1. generating hypotheses that can be further tested quantitatively;
2. generating information helpful in structuring consumer questionnaires;
3. providing overall background information on a product category;
4. securing impressions on new product concepts for which there is little information available;
5. stimulating new ideas about older products;
6. stimulating ideas for new creative concepts; and
7. interpreting previously obtained quantitative results (Churchill, 1987).


Advantages of Focus Group Interviews:

  • Socially Oriented
  • Probing Format
  • High Face Validity
  • Low in Cost
  • Speedy Results
  • Increased Sample Size over other Qualitative Studies

Limitations of Focus Group Interviews:

  • Less Interview Control
  • Difficult to Analyze
  • Requires Training of Interviewers
  • Group Variability
  • Group Assembly
  • Environment

Caution: generalizing focus group results may be hazardous.

In summary, a focus group can be defined as a carefully planned discussion designed to obtain perceptions on a defined area of interest in a permissive, non-threatening environment.

*Chirchilll, Jr., Gilbert A. Marketing Research: Methodological Foundations. CBS College Publishing. 1987.
Alexandria Marketing Research Group, Inc. 212 1/2 W. 5th St., Joplin, MO 64801, Phone: 888.420.8884
Revision Date June 5, 2008