Calder, B., "Focus groups and the nature of qualitative marketing research." Journal of Marketing Research, pp. 141-157. (1977, August)
Lavidge, R., & Payne, M. "The steps in a marketing research study." In Buell, V. ed., Handbook of Modern Marketing (2nd ed.) McGraw-Hill, New York, 1986
Martin, J.N.T. "Play, reality and creativity" In Henry, J. ed. Creative Management, , Sage Publications, London ISBN 0-8039-8491-X.
Focus Groups to Study Work Practice by Meghan R. Ede (Usability Interface, October 1998)
Overview of focus groups - part of a student web site at UMd
The Use and Misuse of Focus Groups by Jakob Nielsen
Conducting Focus Groups - a categorized collection of links assembled by Carter McNamara
Focus Groups in the Arena of Continuous Improvement - A collection of information about focus groups from a department at the University of Texas-Houston. It includes some of their tips and hints and a short planning checklist.
Shoot the Focus Group - Business Week Magazine "Exasperation with focus groups, while not universal, is growing as companies look for better ways to get inside consumers' heads" Nov 14, 2005
Articles by Thomas L. Greenbaum - a collection of articles on focus groups and related topics on Groups Plus web site. This site also includes an overview of the focus group process, organized as a calendar of events.
Goldman, A., & MacDonald. S. The Group Depth Interview: Principles and Practice. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N. J. 1987
Greenbaum, T. The practical handbook and guide to focus group research Heath and Company, Lexington, MA, 1988
Greenbaum, T. L. The Handbook of Focus Group Research: Revised and Expanded Edition. Lexington Books: New York, NY, 1993. Research, Sage Publications, 1988
Nielsen, J Usability Engineering, Academic Press, 1993. (see pp.214-216)
Payne, S. L. The art of asking questions Princeton University Press, Princeton, N. J., 1979
Scholtes, Peter R., Joiner, B. L., Streibel, B. J., The Team Handbook Second Edition Oriel, Inc. 1995 ISBN: 1884731112
Templeton, J. F. The Focus Group: A Strategic Guide to Organizing, Conducting, and Analyzing the Focus Group Interview. Irwin Professional Publishing: Chicago, IL, 1994. ISBN: 1-55738-530-0
Brainstorming Techniques in Focus Groups
In a brainstorming session, instead of having free-form contributions, I use a more structured scenario. I provide the participants a stack of small index cards and ask them to write one idea on each card. After giving them time to get some ideas down, I go around the room, asking each person to contribute one idea while I write it on an easel pad. If they don't care to contribute, they can pass. This ensures participation by all attendees, and keeps certain vocal members from dominating the group. When about half of the participants begin to pass, I then switch to free-form input for those with more ideas. Even the ideas that come up after the brainstorming has begun are written on cards. This allows you to use the cards later if affinity grouping of ideas is important to the process. They also provide a backup in case your easel notes (like mine) sometimes need amplification or clarification after the group has disbanded.
Customer Research Groups
There is an effective alternative to focus groups, which we call "Customer Research Groups". It was invented by Gene Lynch and Sue Palmiter of Design Technologies. We invite groups of 12 to 15 users to come in at the same time. Instead of having a single facilitator, there is a facilitator for each user. The idea is to get multiple one on one discussions rather than a group opinion.
The room is typically divided into four or five different exercises. Each user is given a particular amount of time to participate in each exercise before they move on to the next one. An example of an exercise is a card sort of features, i.e. the user prioritizes the features and explains why they ordered them as they did. There's lots of other exercises that can be used depending upon the type of data desired.
We've used the method a few times and found it to be extremely successful. It works well because of the large amount of data collected and the involvement of the entire design team. (There's nothing like having each member of the design team individually talk to 4 or 5 users about a particular topic). We still use focus groups for collecting certain types of data, but having an additional method at our disposal has been extremely valuable.