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Focus Groups

Advertising planners always searching for motivations behind people behaviours, so they use qualitative and quantitative research methods to provide consumers idea and behaviours (Wells et al 2009:161;178). Hague and Jackson (1996:64) say that the origins of the words qualitative and quantitative are based on quality and quantity. And he adds that probably focus groups are the most widely used qualitative research technique in the world (Hague and Jackson 1996:68).

“With the rise in postmodern thought, qualitative research methodologies such as focus group have been gaining in popularity” ((Kitzinger & Barbour 1999)as cited in (Kress and Shoffner 2007:189)). Focus groups are a qualitative research methodology that researchers use it to collect direct ideas, opinions, attitudes and insight about a topic from people who participate in these groups. This essay will discuss focus groups as one of the most affective qualitative methods. First it will briefly define focus groups and look up for the deference between qualitative and quantitative methods.

After that, the essay will discuss the structure of focus groups, then it will move to talk about the uses of it, and finally, the papers will look at the strengths and advantages for focus groups. Kress and Shoffner (2007:189) express Focus groups as an effective means of understanding the analysis process and clients’ desires and experiences in counselling, and it is group interview that run conversations to discuss a topic such as the brand, the product category or advertising.

Moreover, each group contain 8 to 10 users (Wells et al 2009:174;183). In addition, there are many different between quantitative research and qualitative research, for instance, Quantitative researchers believe that a truth exists but on the other hand qualitative researchers do not believe? qualitative research is inductive while quantitative research is deductive, and quantitative researchers’ role is to be objective whereas other side is interactive (Kress and Shoffner 2007:189).

Sinickas (2009:1) adds that surveys probably the most favourite method of measuring engagement, however, focus group can be equal to surveys and powerful tool for identifying and fixing barriers to employee. Furthermore, in surveys, as good as the questions are, as good as the result would be (Sinickas 2009:1), but qualitative researchers believe that they may not interview many people, but those they interview really count (Hague and Jackson 1996:64).

According to Wells et al (2009:174) the purpose of focus groups is to let the participants engage in conversations so researchers can get ideas from their dialogue. So the structure of it depends on the goal, it can be defined generally where 8 to 10 individuals gather together to discuss a topic for 1 or 2 hours under the direction of group moderator which their role is to promote interaction and keep the discussion near the topic.

Moreover some researchers record he focus group data thus they can transcribe it for better results (Kress and Shoffner 2007:190). Wells et al (2009:176) suggest that other qualitative tools can be used with focus groups, for instance, verbal or non-verbal exercises, memory associations and having participants draw a picture, write a poem or diaries. It is clearly that the outcome of focus groups depends on how the leader of the group can structure and lead the discussion, and how researchers analyses the data after it.

Furthermore, Kress and Shoffner (2007:190) stated that focus groups have been used in a variety of counselling-related settings and it is one of the most effective methods from qualitative research methods. For example, Focus groups have been used in college and university settings to determine college students’ perceptions of student alcohol use and appropriate university responses, another example for it that they have been used to assess the sexual health needs of college women, and understanding factors that affect adolescents’ decisions to seek health care.

these examples show that focus groups can be used for various functions and in various setting. Kress and Shoffner (2007:192;193) add that as stated previously, the focus groups methodology can be applied in a variety of counselling-related settings, for an examples for conducting needs assessments and assessing clients’ preferences for care, and in this case researchers should make efforts to ensure that selected participants represent the demographic characteristics of the population of interest.

It also been suggested for evaluating programs and developing it, for example group counselling program for adolescent survivors of childhood sexual abuse applied a focus group for purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of sexual abuse recovery program, the focus group provided rich helpful information. Focus groups can also be used in exploratory and descriptive research; this can be useful when investigating constructs that have not previously been effectively operationalized.

For example, an author was involved in designing and overseeing focus groups that examined students’ opinions regarding careers in mathematics, science and technology. Hague and Jackson (1996:66) argue that focus groups are used now for creating new ideas and as a guide to the right way. For example, if an advertising agency wants ideas for a new campaign it may get these from interaction of thoughts arising in focus groups. Finally finding out people thoughts and ideas of different presentation of an advert can be another use of focus groups (Hague and Jackson 1996:67).

Finally, Focus groups seems to have many advantages and strengths, Kress and Shoffner (2007:192) believe that it have more flexibility and economy of time than other methods, also it deliver more direct contact between researchers and participants, therefore, it allows them to explore the important issues then they can elicit a synergistic effect that individual interviews cannot achieve. Kress and Shoffner (2007:192) suggest that the philosophies of focus groups have a natural empathy that provides more respect for clients’ perspectives.

Wells et al (2009:176) add that at any stage of the planning process, focus groups can be used, but they often meet early in the information-gathering process to let people engage from the beginning with their ideas and thought. Finally, another strength of focus groups that it focus on a small number of experienced and skilled participants, so they can deeply involve in the topic and allows the researchers to collect much of the date and turn into creative research findings (Hague and Jackson 1996:65). In conclusion, focus groups are becoming a popular research method for collecting people ideas and motivations for a better serve.

Moreover, this paper talked about the deference between qualitative and quantitative methods. Although focus groups can be used for many proposes so the structure of it change from one to another. The strength of focus groups that they have many advantages more than other methods like flexibility and the direct contact between researchers and participants. Finally the ability of collecting direct ideas, opinions, attitudes and insight about a topic from people made focus groups the most affective qualitative research methodology.

References

Hague, P & Jackson, P 1996, Market Research: A Guide to Planning Methodology and Evaluation, Kogan Pages, London, United Kingdom Kress, V. & Shoffner, M. 2007, “Focus Groups: A Pracitcal and Applied Research Approach for Counselors”, Journal of Counselling & Development, Vol. 85, pp. 189-195 Sinickas, A. 2009. “How Focus Groups Can Deliever What Surveys Can’t”, SCM research & Measurement, Vol. 13, issue 4, pp. 11-12 Wells, W, Spence-Stone, R, Mariarty & Burnett 2009, Advertising: Principles and Practice. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, USA

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