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Choosing the best focus group methodology requires a close look at how each type of group functions and the benefits of using each type. There are many methodologies, including two-way, multiple moderator, nominal, telephone and online focus groups. All types of focus group methodology use the power of group discussion to generate the insights that can be only be produced from people interacting with one another in some type of group. Different focus group methodologies produce unique kinds of information. People interacting in a focus group setting will likely disclose information that is not normally disclosed by individuals in any other setting.
There are benefits to using the various focus group methodologies. For example, a two-way moderator focus group can produce more refined feedback than a single-moderator group. Two-way focus group methodology involves the use of one focus group for observing the behavior with a second focus group taking part in discussions. This stimulates discussion in the second group and may lead to conclusions that would not have been reached without observing the first group. Similar benefits may arise when focus groups utilize multiple moderators.
Nominal group technique is a methodology used by those who want to make decisions quickly, through a voting process, while still considering all views and opinions on a particular matter. All members of the focus group provide a solution, a list of all possible solutions is made, and members of the group then rank the solutions from best to worst. The moderator can encourage discussion by all members and try to identify commonalities among solutions. The benefit of this focus group methodology is that it produces an idea using all the different ideas offered in the group. The final idea is often better than any single idea considered by the group.
The focus group methodology used in telephone and online groups has the distinct advantage of bringing many different participants together, no matter where they are located physically. While lacking the warmth and interaction of a personal meeting, these type of focus groups cost far less and can be effective in providing qualitative research. One benefit of the telephone or online focus group is a level of respondent anonymity that produces more truthful answers, especially when discussing sensitive or highly personal topics. Other benefits include gathering data from a much larger sample size and lowering the probability of peer pressure affecting the responses.