A cornerstone of qualitative research is bringing a small group of audience members together and getting them talking.
For understanding perceptions, identifying benefits and barriers, and exploring desires, nothing beats group discussions. These lively, unpredictable conversations reveal what surveys don’t: the emotional, subjective side of your audience’s perceptions, motivations, values, and actions. They shed light on how people think—and feel—about your organization and the cultural or educational category you represent.
Focus groups can be a smart way to begin a broad, strategic research effort, since they allow audiences to tell us what the relevant issues are. They’re also great for soliciting responses to your programming concepts, marketing messages or communications materials, and institutional plans.
Methodological rigor is just as important in qualitative research as it is in survey design and analysis. Our focus group participants are recruited using sophisticated “screeners” to ensure that the people in the room truly represent the audience segment we’ve defined. The discussions are moderated by experienced researchers who know how to minimize responses biases, read non-verbal information, and pursue promising lines of inquiry as they crop up.
Most importantly, our focus groups are analyzed as thoroughly as our survey data, with in-depth reports that illuminate key ideas while preserving nuance and differences between groups.
Best of all, you and your colleagues get to sit in the next room and observe the focus groups live. (Pay no attention to that man behind the mirror!)