Can anyone point me to online resources that can guide me in the
organization of a focus group?
I've participated in them in the past, but could use a refresher.
Digital Strategy Works
I wrote some info about this a while back. Hope this helps:
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Posted from the new ixda.org
There are lots of web resources about focus groups (e.g.
http://www.focusgrouptips.com/ for one). They talk about the types
of questions, the order in which the questions may be asked and also
give tips for moderating a group.
I expect that there will be limited response to your question here
(but happy to be proved wrong). Why? Many of the readers would
prefer to watch users work with a product or interact in their
ordinary environment (behavioral research), rather than get their
verbal responses in a group (attitudinal research).
In a group setting you often find participants expressing a view they
don't necessarily follow, in order to please the moderator, or
because of presumed peer pressure. One noisy (assertive, high verbal)
participant can drown out the views of several quieter (less verbal,
turn-taking) ones, whether just by talking over them. There are
cultural aspects of "interrupting" vs "turn-taking" that may be
unrelated to politeness, and may confound your abilities as a
In a group about diet and activity levels, I might tell you I had a
good (balanced, low fat) breakfast this morning, because it will put
me in a positive light (to you, to the other participants, and to
myself), or that I joined the gym and have been there 3-4x/week since
Jan 1, because that was my New Year's resolution, and I'd prefer not
to see myself as breaking resolutions before the first quarter of the
year is up. (All examples purely imaginary.)
Now get people to keep a food diary or photograph their snacks and
meals, and you may find out more about how many calories they're
eating (portion size, plus food selection). Or follow them around
3-4 random occasions over a week or two, and see what they really
eat. Expensive but more likely to be representative (accurate).
If you are interested in attitudes, then a focus group could be the
If you're interested in avoiding most of the disadvantages of focus
groups, but having a group event where you listen to users and
customers, then consider a technique that is less familiar to users
and more provocative of other kinds of expressive abilities. I like
to use Innovation Games, and will teach a (90-min) course at CHI2010
(Atlanta - April), and a full day tutorial at UPA 2010 (Munich -May)
about this topic.
Or buy Luke's book and do it yourself