When NOT to use Focus Groups - Limitations

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When NOT to use Focus Groups - Limitations
You should not use Focus Groups when quantitative information is needed (when you want to know the percentage of people who will buy a product or vote for some candidate). The small size of focus groups makes any estimates of quantitative proportions unreliable, even if the members of the focus group are representative of the target population.
By the same token, focus group research is a poor choice for multivariate research, where one again needs the stability of large random samples to be ably to disaggregate the effects of explanatory variables through statistical techniques.
Thirdly, focus group research is a poor choice for predicting future action in settings yet to emerge since focus group discussants will articulate their views in terms of their own present experiences.

Focus Group is Powerful for Quantitative Predictions
M G Agarwal
Although, by definition, focus group is a qualitative research method, yet its most potential use is in quantitative predictions of all types. It includes % of people who will buy the product or vote for some candidate. This is so for the simple reason that members of the focus group are knowledgeable, experienced and with deep understanding of the subject. In fact, in the business world, media world, research world, academics, political world etc. etc., the focus group methodology is the fastest, most accurate and reliable tool to use. The key is in the careful selection of members for a given cause, geography, etc.

Focus Group & Quantitative Information
The fact is focus group discussions can be used for both qualitative & quantitaitve products. Products which has mass utility like toothpastes, soaps etc will be benefited by phenomenological focus group discussions & products having selective customers like automobiles, wrist watches etc will be benefited by exploratory focus group. The important factor is the way the group discussions are facilitated.

Focus Groups not for Quantitative Usage
I agree with Gene. Quantitative studies are dealing with answering questions such as "What is A and how does B vary in different circumstances, and why?" rather than "How many Cs and Ds are there?"
Even if the participants for a focus group are selected carefully to represent reality, the results of any focus group can be very different when other participants / respondents are used. The results of focus groups should therefore be treated as preliminary ideas. Never simply generalize the results without doing some additional quantitative research to back up your conclusions.

Re: Focus Group Usage
James Kambasu
Focus Groups are really crucial to search for certain information. In a community based organisation we have used a focus group to identify the gaps in the understanding of HIV issues by youth and this has given us a way forward to handle the issues.

Focus Groups
Dr. Uditha Liyanage
In my experience, focus groups are most useful to identify issues that have escaped your attention. However, they are not typically useful to validate perspectives.

Focus Groups Use
Vivek Joshi
A meaningful quantitative result requires a sample size so that the data can reasonably be modeled as a Normal (Gaussian) distribution. Focus groups are unlikely to be of the requsite size. The individual data points also need to be independent of each other, which may not be feasible in a Focus Group. I tend to agree with gene on the limitations for quantitative results. Are Focus groups suitable for new breakthrough products? That is, products which are yet to be experienced by the consumers (Focus group members). Would a Focus group have been meaningful in reserach on computers before they were in use?


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