Focus Groups: Part 6.1 – Analyze the Results

6 mins read

This article explains the first 2 steps in analyzing the results of a focus group, which are debriefing, then reviewing and transcribing.

Focus groups are a series of discussions led by a facilitator (also called a moderator) with the goal of obtaining numerous perceptions on a defined topic. These group discussions are generally organized to obtain qualitative data for market research. Qualitative data is often presented through a narrative, it portrays stories, experiences, perspectives, and is descriptive. Quantitative data, on the other hand, gives information about numbers and statistics. Qualitative data can generally be used to better understand the quantitative data. The results from a focus group produce a large amount of qualitative data. Beyond what was discussed during the group session, there is also non-verbal communication that takes place within the group. So, what do you do with this data? How do you analyze it? In part 6.1 of our series on focus groups, we discuss the first 2 steps in analyzing the results of a focus group.

For more information on preparing for and running a focus group, check out the previous 5 articles in this series!

1. Debrief

As soon as the focus group is done, it is valuable for the facilitator and note taker to debrief and discuss the conversation that took place with the focus group. Have them go through each question that was asked, discuss the overall impressions of the group’s answers, and take extra notes on any non-verbal communication or comments that the notetaker may have missed. Since everything will be fresh in their minds, it is also a great time to list any themes that seemed to come up during the discussion, or common responses that were noticed, and ask each other questions about responses and behaviours witnessed. Make sure that this conversation is recorded, or detailed notes are taken as there can be very useful and helpful insights.

Here are some great questions to include in the debrief:

      • How closely did the group seem to connect to the topic being discussed?
      • What question(s) produced consensus among group members?
      • What statements seemed to evoke conflict between participants?
      • Were there contradictions in the discussion?
      • What alliances formed among group members (if any)?
      • What group member or viewpoint was silenced during the conversation (if any)?
      • Were there any non-verbal gestures or behaviours used to contribute to the discussion?

2. Review and Transcribe

The next step is to review all the notes and listen to the audio recording from the focus group. This is a great opportunity to create a transcript of the group’s discussion. Transcription will keep an in-depth record of the discussion that took place, will help with identifying any important quotes, and will support the next step of organizing the data. Transcribing involves listening to an audio or video recording and typing out exactly what is said word-for-word.

As this can take time, there are professional transcription companies that can do this for you for about $1.25/minute. If hiring a company, it is important to still go through the notes and audio recording yourself to highlight any context lost in the text such as tone of voice or sarcasm. If doing your own transcription, it can take up to 4 hours of transcribing per 1 hour of focus group discussion recording.

Here are a few tips for transcription:

      • Avoid the temptation to add words or correct grammar
      • Type what you hear, as people don’t speak how they would write
      • Remember to transcribe the questions that were asked to help with organization
      • Add in collective group responses such as the group clapping or laughing after a response
      • Make note of context such as tone of voice, sarcasm, emotion, or noises that can be heard from an individual or the group

The Value of Analysis

It is in the analysis process that the true value of focus groups is exhibited. During this qualitative research analysis, the data is converted into information and knowledge that can then be used to guide the development of the topic that was discussed. After the debrief of the focus group, along with the review and transcription which are the first 2 steps in the analysis process, you are ready to move onto the 3rd step!

Check out Part 6.2 in this series which describes the 3rd step: organizing and categorizing the results.

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