JMU Focus Group

Focusing In On Focus Groups

After learning about focus groups and project management in class I explored the web looking for an article to better understand how to run, as well as be a part of a focus group. Given that I will be working on a decent amount of group projects during my final semesters at school and will continue to do so out in the work world. I wanted to learn a little more about why this way of idea generation and brainstorming is so popular.

After reading up on the article I learned that there are two key positions needed for running a successful focus group. Establishing a predetermined moderator and observer will ensure the productiveness of the group. The moderator does exactly what the name states. The best way I could think to describe a good moderator would be the host of the party. The moderator sets the date, makes the guest list, operates any audio/visual media, and facilitates the discussion, making sure that everyone’s ideas are heard. They are also responsible for summing up any points so that everyone in the group is on the same page. Lastly, they are responsible for making sure that the session stays on track, finishes on time, and should provide a good summary at the conclusion of the focus group.

The observer or observers are responsible for successful documentation of the group’s discussion. This can be done in a multitude of ways including, note taking, creating or drawing visuals, or including sorted, visual groups throughout the duration of the meeting. I key part of in being a successful observer is determining what information is relevant. Obviously taking down everything that is talked about is unrealistic. Good points to gather include quotes, key points, questions, “light bulb moments,” and the reactions/emotions of the group members.

These two roles are very important to the group because this allows the group to really dive into what they are analyzing without worrying about recording or facilitating the content. Keeping in mind the context of the topic, the frequency of member participation, the intensity/emotion of the group, and specificity of what each member is talking about are all vital things to keep in mind when participating in a focus group.

As I progress on in my schoolwork, career, and life I am setting a personal goal of trying to utilize the focus group to better work with co-workers and clients. I think that it has the potential to be an extremely helpful tool when it comes to getting ideas out on the table and working through those ideas with a group of people. I feel like many ideas can get diminished when they aren’t put out into the open and discussed. However, the focus group allows multiple sets of eyes to analyze a topic or idea at hand.


The article can be viewed here.


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