October 26, 2012

MU0013 [Human Resource Audit] Set2 Q1

Q1. Write a short note on focus groups. 


Focus Groups
Focus groups are a qualitative data collection method effective in helping researchers learn the social norms of a community or subgroup, as well as the range of perspectives that exist within that community or subgroup. Focus groups are often used to determine what service or product a particular population wants or would like to have, such as in marketing studies.
Because focus groups seek to illuminate group opinion, the method is especially well suited for sociobehavioral research that will be used to develop and measure services that meet the needs of a given population.

This module presents the fundamentals of using focus groups in applied qualitative research. It includes:
• Overview of Focus Groups
• Ethical Guidelines
• Logistics of Focus Groups
• How to Be an Effective Moderator
• How to Be an Effective Note-taker
• Suggested Readings
• Case Study Samples
• Steps in Moderating a Focus Group
• Steps in Note-taking for a Focus Group
• Focus Group Checklist


Overview of Focus Groups

What is a focus group?
A focus group is a qualitative data collection method in which one or two researchers and several participants meet as a group to discuss a given research topic. These sessions are usually tape recorded, and sometimes videotaped. One researcher (the moderator) leads the discussion by asking participants to respond to open-ended questions – that is, questions that require an indepth response rather than a single phrase or simple “yes” or “no” answer. A second researcher (the note-taker) takes detailed notes on the discussion. A principal advantage of focus groups is that they yield a large amount of information over a relatively short period of time. They are also effective for accessing a broad range of views on a specific topic, as opposed to achieving group consensus. Focus groups are not the best method for acquiring information on highly personal or socially sensitive topics; one-on-one interviews are better-suited for such topics.

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging.[1] Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. The first focus groups were created at the Bureau of Applied Social Research in the USA, by associate director, sociologist Robert K. Merton. The term itself was coined by psychologist and marketing expert 

Types of focus groups
Variants of focus groups include:

  • Two-way focus group - one focus group watches another focus group and discusses the observed interactions and conclusion
  • Dual moderator focus group - one moderator ensures the session progresses smoothly, while another ensures that all the topics are covered
  • Dueling moderator focus group - two moderators deliberately take opposite sides on the issue under discussion
  • Respondent moderator focus group - one and only one of the respondents are asked to act as the moderator temporarily
  • Client participant focus groups - one or more client representatives participate in the discussion, either covertly or overtly
  • Mini focus groups - groups are composed of four or five members rather than 6 to 12
  • Teleconference focus groups - telephone network is used
  • Online focus groups - computers connected via the internet are used


Traditional focus groups can provide accurate information, and are less expensive than other forms of traditional marketing research. There can be significant costs however : if a product is to be marketed on a nationwide basis, it would be critical to gather respondents from various locales throughout the country since attitudes about a new product may vary due to geographical considerations. This would require a considerable expenditure in travel and lodging expenses. Additionally, the site of a traditional focus group may or may not be in a locale convenient to a specific client, so client representatives may have to incur travel and lodging expenses as well.

Problems and criticism
Focus groups are "One shot case studies" especially if they are measuring a property-disposition relationship within the social sciences, unless they are repeated. Focus groups can create severe issues of external validity, especially the reactive effects of the testing arrangement. A fundamental difficulty with focus groups (and other forms of qualitative research) is the issue of observer dependency: the results obtained are influenced by the researcher, raising questions of validity.

Another issue is with the setting itself. If the focus groups are held in a laboratory setting with a moderator who is a professor and the recording instrument is obtrusive, the participants may either hold back on their responses and/or try to answer the moderator's questions with answers the participants feel that the moderator wants to hear. Another issue with the focus group setting is the lack of anonymity. With all of the other participants, there cannot be any guarantee of confidentiality. Again we have to deal with the issues of the reactive effects of the testing arrangement (See above).

Douglas Rushkoff argues that focus groups are often useless, and frequently cause more trouble than they are intended to solve, with focus groups often aiming to please rather than offering their own opinions or evaluations, and with data often cherry picked to support a foregone conclusion. Rushkoff cites the disastrous introduction of New Coke in the 1980s as a vivid example of focus group analysis gone bad. In addition there is anecdotal evidence of focus groups rebelling, for instance the name for the Ford Focus, was created by a focus group which had grown bored and impatient and the irony of this was not picked up by the marketing team.

Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design, also said that Apple had found a good reason not to do focus groups : "They just ensure that you don’t offend anyone, and produce bland inoffensive products."

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