The purpose of holding a focus group is to elicit stakeholders’ views and perceptions that answer questions of why and how. The purpose is not to achieve consensus, brainstorm, or accomplish a task. Focus groups can capture a broader range of ideas and opinions than a series of interviews can, and the participants often shape the path of the discussion.
It is important for the organization to select and invite focus group participants who have experience with, knowledge of, or concerns about the topic and are willing to express their feelings in a group setting. Participants should be individually invited and assured that their input is needed and valued.
The moderator keeps the discussion focused on the larger question and uses techniques to draw information from the participants. Either a note-taker or recording device is needed to make sure nothing is missed.
Following the session, the verbal data is categorized and analyzed for themes. Often a series of focus groups on the same topic will be held to broaden the spectrum of the data and to identify recurring themes.
An example of a focus group broad question might be, Why don’t more high school girls take electives in advanced science, math, or technology?, and the focus group(s) might consist of female high school students.