Data Collection Methods

Focus Group

Focus Groups are arguably the most invasive of all the data collection techniques. The method involves bringing in several members of an organization for a group interview. Despite being invasive, focus groups can be incredibly helpful where other data collection methods fail. This method give you the advantages of an interview with outreach of a survey, in essence allowing the analyst to interview multiple subject simultaneously. An added bonus is that a group environment can help temper the extreme opinions you might encounter in a one on one interview.

Focus groups make sense when the primary goals of the research are to:
  • Explore feelings, perceptions and motivations
  • Understand why consumers react to a product or advertising message in a certain way
  • Provide guidance to a development process (e.g. advertising, packaging, product development)
  • Explore issues to form hypotheses when none exist
  • Understand the story and why behind the numbers from quantitative studies or key performance metrics (e.g. sales)
  • Provide input about issues that should be measured using quantitative research
Focus groups are about exploration and guidance, but don't give definitive answers. In a recent article about focus groups by Freya Gaertner, she quotes Karen Sandberg who in a Harvard Management Communication Letter writes, "use focus groups not to draw conclusions, but to understand the conclusions drawn."

Mora, Michaela

Another problem with focus groups is that it requires many resources and takes time to plan. The organizer will need to schedule the participants, find a location to hold the meeting, develop a set of interview questions, administer the event, and finally analyze the data. As you can imagine this can be incredibly time consuming. However, regardless of these shortcomings don't rule out focus groups. The data collected can be incredibly useful and unlike any other single collection method.