It’s your first time taking part in a research study. You login to WeParticipated and browse the Announcement Hall. You find an advert about a research study, where you have to give your opinion on a new product created by one of your favourite tech companies. You’re interested in the study, but you read that you’ll be giving your opinion as part of a group discussion and in the advert this is called a focus group. You pause and wonder, “what is a focus group?” Well, to understand what a focus group is, we first need to understand its origin.
How Did Focus Groups Come About?
During the second world war, an American sociologist by the name of Robert K. Merton was trying to understand how people perceived propaganda content over the radio. After conducting a study to better understand propaganda and perception, he created an interview procedure that involved asking a series of questions to a group of people, instead of on a one-to-one basis. Although Robert K. Merton never coined the term focus group himself, his initial work on interviewing groups of people after all having some shared experience (hearing propaganda over the radio), lay the foundations for the focus group method.
What Does a Focus Group Look Like?
Nowadays, when we come across focus groups it’s to do with taking part in research and the focus groups are actually paid focus groups. However, the general procedure is usually the same and can be summed up in three main points:
- A group of 4 -12 people with similar experiences or demographics are brought together either in-person or online.
- A researcher asks a series of questions on a specific topic to the entire group.
- The topic and questions are usually based on something that all the group members have experience with.
If you come across a focus group study when considering taking part in research, you’ll most probably come across paid focus groups in market research. This is usually to do with getting insights into new or previous products, understanding consumer behaviour and more.