Focus Groups and In-Depth Interviews

Focus Groups

An ideal focus group size is between 4-10 participants, and a study design will include at least 2-3 groups (and upwards of 4-6 groups) of participants to give the total study sample a more robust data sample.

In-person focus groups are usually held at focus group facilities, which offer amenities such as DVD recording, live streaming, and a neutral location for participants to come to.

There is an increasing trend to use online focus groups: Online focus groups offer the convenience of letting people participate from the comfort of their homes or offices, and they allow the study to pull from a nationwide sample versus a localized sample. A moderator will lead the discussion, and participants are able to see other participants through their webcams. The moderator can upload prompts and stimulus materials to aid in the discussion. This format tends to reduce the dangers of participants being driven by the dominant discourse. But it will also be less effective in collecting non-verbal elements.

In-Depth Interviews

In-depth interviews (IDI) can be stretched over several sessions, which is particularly useful to minimize the sleeper effect, which arises from the difference in reaction that a message can provoke over time: for example a message can be dismissed in a first discussion as not being convincing, but a second discussion two weeks later might find that this is actually the only message that was remembered.

IDI can also better test the effect of the repetition of a message. This is all the more useful as when campaigns are rolled out, they will aim for the target group to be exposed to the messages several times (at least 3, but normally the aim is 7). A single discussion will allow to get insights into what the first exposure to a message provokes, but sequencing IDIs out over several sessions will allow to test how “sticky” the message is, and how it resists the repetition test.

Let’s pause a little bit here with a short survey to check if YOU would be good at conducting FGD or IDIs. Take the short quizz below to see if you can identify what qualities a good researcher needs to have.

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It is important to remember that people’s attitude depend on their context. Young people for example will display very different attitudes depending whether they are with their peers, in their families, in unfamiliar surroundings, etc. Adults will have different attitudes depending on whether they are in their families, in their churches, at work, etc. It is important to specify not just the target group, but in what specific setting the group is targeted.

When analysing the target group, it is important to also take into account what other influences this group is submitted to. Groups that have progressive attitudes but that are also heavily targeted by conservative groups might not be the best immediate target group for a campaign, which might be better off identifying groups which are under less focus.

 Target groups also have to be analysed in terms of the channels that they can be reached through. Target groups which are heavily organised (workers via their unions, students via their university structures, health workers via their vocational training structures, etc.) might be easier targets.

The channels will also largely affect the change objective: if working through medical structures, it might be better to seek changes in attitudes on the idea that sexual and gender diversities are illnesses. Freedom of opinion might not be the best value to try to activate in moderately religious people if the campaigns aims at relying on churches as channels to reach people.

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