🪄What are the pros and cons of focus group discussions?

Assessing the Advantages and Disadvantages of the FGD Methodology.

What are the pros and cons of focus group discussions?

Written by Spriha Dhand

Used widely by user researchers and market researchers, focus group discussions (FGDs) have become an exciting method of collecting data. Focus groups consist of multiple people that have a guided discussion on a particular topic facilitated by a moderator. Unlike an interview, the moderator is only there to raise points and probe discussion, most of the talking here is done by the participants. FGDs can be an excellent way to get a look into people’s natural attitudes, views, and perspectives. To help you make an informed decision about whether FGDs are the right tool for your research, let’s explore some advantages and disadvantages of FGDs through this piece.

Pros of FGD’s

  1. Group discussion
    FGDs permit on-spot follow-up of remarks made by participants to explore the discussion further. In an FGD, participants have the space to respond to each other’s comments and enrich the discussion.
  2. Time efficient
    FGD’s allow collecting data and insights from multiple participants at the same time, thus, saving you on time that you would have spent on conducting individual interviews. 
  3. Stimulating creativity
    If you are looking for new ideas and perspectives on your product or a problem, group discussions can be a great way to inspire participants to build on each other’s ideas and to talk about innovative perspectives and insights.
  4. Minimal role of the researcher
    The discussion in a focus group is almost entirely carried out by the participants. The researcher or moderator plays a very minimal role, thus, removing the possibilities of any biases that could influence the discussion and the findings subsequently. 

Some more advantages of FGD’s are:

  • Provides an insight into everyday ways of talking and thinking
  • Good for gathering knowledge and perspectives on topics little is known or researched about

Cons of FGD’s

  1. Dominance of certain participants
    In a group setting, there might be a tendency for certain out-spoken participants to dominate the discussion, preventing others from talking and sharing their points. This prevents the data from being representative and can skew the results. 
  2. Social desirability
    In a group setting, since one’s responses will be heard by all other participants, they might feel the need to respond in ways that they think will be socially acceptable.
  3. Logistical constraints
    FGD’s might be difficult to organise and set-up because it requires you to coordinate with multiple people, decide a common place and timing, and organise the discussion. This might be cumbersome especially if your participants are geographically dispersed or have busy and varying schedules. However, in lieu of this disadvantage, online FGDs are becoming increasingly common.
  4. Limited information on individual experiences
    If looking at individual narratives and personal stories is the aim of your research, FGD’s might not be the best tool. Because of the group dynamics, there might not be enough space for participants to talk about their individual experiences. 

Some more disadvantages of FGD’s are:

  • Transcription of FGD’s might be time consuming
  • High tendency for the discussion to get off-topic and divert from the main issue

In summary, In the real world scenario, users often engage in discussions with their peers and social circles about a certain product. Focus group discussions are a great way for you to capture and observe these interactions but these discussions are limited in their depth of conversation and insight. If you are looking for quick insights based on targeted questioning, FGDs might provide the answers. If you are looking for in-depth qualitative insights, you are better off doing user interviews. If you are looking for statistical data, surveys are the way to go.

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Cover photo by: Fauxels