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Resource Methods Toolkit wp6-tuni Published: 12 May 2022

Focus group

Focus group is a research method that brings together a small group of people into one room (about 3-10 people). In this room, a trained moderator leads a discussion about a concept, a product, a social phenomenon, or a campaign. The discussion usually takes about an hour in one session, and several sessions could be planned. The role of the moderator is to keep the discussion focused on the issues while acting only as a facilitator of the discussion between participants (Lunt & Livingstone, 1996). The moderator should not be the investigator who strictly controls the dynamics of the discussion. The aim of the discussion is to gather in-depth information about the wide range of participants’ perceptions and values concerning the issue researched. The group can be a group of children or a group of experts in some field. Purposive sampling (producing a sample that can be assumed to be representative of the population group under study) is widely recommended. However, the focus group is not a statistically representative sample of a broader population.

When planning a focus group study, it is important to clearly think through and verbalise the rationale for choosing this method and for forming the group(s). The discussion is usually facilitated by bringing up key topics or questions that are built on research questions.  There are several ways to facilitate the discussion process in the focus groups (see for overview (Lunt & Livingstone, 1996; Morgan, 1996; O.Nyumba et al., 2018)). The sessions are usually recorded and transcribed. Thus, suitable equipment is needed. Transcripts are later coded to identify key ideas, themes, or ranks. Qualitative analysis techniques, such as content analysis or discourse analysis is often used. All the above-mentioned methodological details should also be described in the final report or article.

Pros

  • cost-effective

  • enjoyable group dynamics and the possibility to employ one’s creativity and logic during the analysis phase

Cons

  • The recruitment of participants for the study may require financial resources such as purchasing incentives offered for participation

  • volunteer bias, using local contacts to find participants is criticised since it leads to convenience sampling by accessibility (Krueger, 1994)

  • the difficult aspects could be mastering the facilitation of discussion

  • qualitative analysis requires practice and a good eye for identifying the most frequently mentioned keywords and themes





  1. De Wolf, R. (2016). Group privacy management strategies and challenges in Facebook: A focus group study among flemish youth organizations. Cyberpsychology, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2016-1-5

  2. Feerrar, J. (2019). Development of a framework for digital literacy. Reference Services Review, 47(2), 91–105. https://doi.org/10.1108/RSR-01-2019-0002

  3. Krueger, R. A. (1994). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Sage Publications Inc.

  4. Lunt, P., & Livingstone, S. (1996). Rethinking the Focus Group in Media and Communications Research. Journal of Communication, 46(2), 79–98. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1996.tb01475.x

  5. Morgan, D. L. (1996). Focus groups. Annual Review of Sociology, 22, 129–152. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.22.1.129

  6. O.Nyumba, T., Wilson, K., Derrick, C. J., & Mukherjee, N. (2018). The use of focus group discussion methodology: Insights from two decades of application in conservation. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9(1), 20–32. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12860

  7. Throuvala, M. A., Griffiths, M. D., Rennoldson, M., & Kuss, D. J. (2019). Motivational processes and dysfunctional mechanisms of social media use among adolescents: A qualitative focus group study. Computers in Human Behavior, 93, 164–175. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.CHB.2018.12.012

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Authors

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Team member, CO:RE at TUNI

Iiris Tuvi

Iiris Tuvi, PhD, is a post-doctoral Research Fellow a the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences of Tampere University. She has long experience in experimental psychology and methods involving psychometrics and data analysis. Currently working on methods used to research children in digital environment. Iiris is a member of Work Package 6 team.

Tampere University
Tampere University
CO:RE at TUNI
Methods

The team at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication of TUNI identifies, develops and provides access to resources on qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods together with evaluating their validity in research practice.

These resources are collated in the CO:RE methods toolkit that cross-reference resources from the evidence base, the compass for research ethics, and the theory toolkit, to give users tools to apply to their individual research contexts.

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