Comparing the value of in-depth interviews and focus groups as qualitative research methods
As the application of technology improves, the number of available research methods continues to grow. At MDRG, we conduct surveys, interviews, focus groups, online metaphor elicitation, facial coding, mobile ethnography, online communities, and more.
Each of these qualitative research methods offer different forms of value – their potential for effectively drawing out insights depends on the specifics of a client’s objectives. As we think about how to apply new methods, it’s also worth looking at how traditional methods are best utilized. For instance, despite some overlapping benefits, in-depth interviews and focus groups offer differing kinds of value depending on the circumstance.
Focus groups might provide greater success:
However, there are circumstances that might make focus groups less effective. If respondents are geographically dispersed, bringing them together for a focus group might be too expensive or time-consuming to be worthwhile.* Gaining a respondent’s trust and developing a rapport can be more difficult to achieve in a focus group than in interviews because the moderator’s attention is divided between respondents.
Now let’s change gears and take a look at what makes an in-depth interview the right fit for gaining insights in qualitative research.
Overall, individual in-depth interviews are best in the following scenarios:
Both focus groups and interviews have their strengths and weaknesses. One or the other can be more time and cost-effective depending on travel requirements, how geographically accessible respondents are, and the number of respondents recruited.
What’s more, the potential of qualitative research stretches beyond interviews and focus groups – with metaphor elicitation, mobile ethnography, online communities, and more.
* If group interaction is still important to conducting successful research, online communities can be used to generate discussion between geographically dispersed respondents.