A Focus Group serves to collect individual thoughts, perspectives and viewpoints in a group setting. It is used as a way to gain information about a specific issue. Focus groups help us to understand issues at a deeper, individual level and are used to identify perceived problems or difficulties within existing programs, organizations, or institutions.
A Focus Group gathers the thoughts and opinions of all participants as they pertain to specific issues, topics, goals, or questions. It allows for group discussion and looks for a range of opinions and ideas, as well as consistencies and inconsistencies in these opinions. The correlation or variation in viewpoints is then used to define specific purposes.
Focus groups seek to collect opinions and viewpoints, as well as to discover the reasons for these opinions and viewpoints. This information is then used to plan, design, and evaluate strategies for personal outreach as individuals. (e.g. in the Vision Teams).
In terms of planning and design, Focus Groups are used to identify various social, cultural factors and experiences that need to be taken into account. At the experience, for example, we may entertain lofty ideals about the way the world should be, but in order to either start or achieve anything on a practical level, it helps to understand and work with prevailing ideas.
Focus groups are structured around a set of carefully predetermined questions (no more than ten in one session). Participants usually do not see the questions ahead of time, but this is by no means a requirement.
A Focus Group is not a debate, although participants may agree or disagree with each other. It is not necessarily a problem-solving session, nor is it intended to be educational. It should not be regarded as a collaborative effort even though a consensus of views may arise. A Focus Group relies on group dynamics and is not, therefore, merely a group interview in which participants provide individual answers. We should keep in mind that the information gathered via Focus Groups consists of thoughts and opinions, not facts. A Focus Group should not be thought of as a controlled study. At times, they can be chaotic and biased, and much of the data collected relies on the skills of individual facilitators.
The benefits of detailed scripts for the Focus Groups are: