Posted on 5/19/22 by Louise Principe
Focus groups thrive on a lively flow of conversation between multiple people. With the right amount of respondents, the influx of opinions, ideas, and feedback gathered in an online or in-person session could help researchers generate valuable insights for better decision-making.
When recruiting focus group participants, moderators always look for the ‘happy medium.’ This is because having too little or too many people in the discussion could be detrimental to data quality. But is there really an ideal sample size for online or in-person focus groups? Well, it depends. Various factors could influence the number of respondents.
This article will explore the optimal focus group size for online and in-person discussions, the different factors contributing to sample size, and a hybrid solution that could change the game for focus group sampling.
Online vs. In-Person
When conducting an online or in-person focus group, you would ideally want to interview a group of about 4-12 participants. This range ensures that each participant gets ample time to contribute to the discussion and provide detailed answers while also being easily manageable for the moderator.
Aside from the sample size, the content of the conversation is also similar whether everyone’s in one room or if the session is conducted remotely. But that is where the similarities end.
Remote focus groups allow participants to retain anonymity and be more comfortable in sharing feedback with moderators during discussions by turning off their webcams. Using digital software enables researchers to reach a more diverse audience because their study does not require participants to travel to a facility – saving them a lot of time and money in the process.
In contrast, in-person focus groups are ideal for individuals that are more comfortable conversing face-to-face or those who are not familiar with operating technology. Traditional focus groups allow researchers to decipher verbal and non-verbal cues (e.g., body language and facial expressions).
Factors that influence sample size
The size of a focus group determines the quantity and quality of the data gathered. Determining the optimal focus group size can be relatively done with ease by referencing these four factors:
Focus group size can be identified by how much time is allotted for each session. Feedback on each question should be thoroughly explored in-depth, with each participant equally contributing to the conversation. This means that the time spent on each question and other tasks should be proportional to the number of participants selected.
For example, let’s say each person is allotted two minutes per question, and the moderator takes about 10-15 minutes for introductions, briefing, and conclusions. With all of these in mind, your ideal sample size for focus groups should not exceed five people, provided that the session lasts for one and a half hours in a discussion format.
Focus Group Format
The format of your sessions plays a role in the number of participants you should recruit. If the discussion is more structured, there could be as many as 10 participants if approximately one minute is spent on each question per participant. Meanwhile, a smaller sample size could be used in a more free-flowing conversation, where feedback is constructively shared amongst participants.
Depending on the aims of your research study, the sample recruited could fluctuate in size. In exploratory research, it is preferable to conduct focus groups that consist of a larger sample size because the study's primary objective is to obtain as much information about a subject.
On the other hand, having a smaller sample size for confirmatory research is recommended because it would be easier to reach a consensus in a group with fewer participants.
In most studies, conducting a single session will not be sufficient to gather all the data you need, resulting in more focus groups that need to be scheduled. A good baseline in determining an optimal focus group size would be to stop recruiting when a saturation point (i.e., when responses start to become redundant) is reached when answering questions.
How CCam® focus can change the landscape of focus group sampling
Civicom’s portable HD 360° recording and streaming solution is equipped with hybrid capabilities that combine online and in-person focus groups in one session, giving respondents the flexibility to participate wherever they feel most comfortable. Researchers have the opportunity to recruit as many participants as they need without worrying about whether the study should be done remotely or in a facility. CCam combines the best aspects of digital and traditional focus groups to maximize information output and minimize group dissatisfaction.