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Research Methods in Anthropology: The Uses of Focus Groups

A white table with blue chairs
Anthropologists use many different types of research methods. And, one of those methods is focus groups. In the last post, you learned what exactly a focus group is. In this post, I will discuss some of the uses of focus groups.

Uses of Focus Groups

Focus groups are a useful research method in many circumstances. In general, focus groups are useful when you want to learn about a wide variety of people’s ideas, rather than learn details about a specific person. For example, if you are looking to explore issues and identify social norms, then a focus group is a good choice of method. But if you are wanting to focus on individual experiences and opinions, or you want personal and sensitive information, then an individual interview is a better choice.
Focus groups are also useful when the group of people you are studying is only together for a short time, and so there wouldn’t be enough time for individual interviews. For example, if you are studying people who participate in cosplay events, the event only lasts for about a day or two. So you couldn’t do very many interviews, but you could do focus groups. Another example would be if you were studying parents at a PTA meeting. Focus groups would be easier than trying to give everyone an individual interview in this situation.
Many different kinds of researchers use focus groups. Here are a few examples of how this method can be used.
Uses of focus groups. Image of a long brown table in a conference room with lots of brown chairs around it.

Market Research

Market researchers use focus groups. These researchers use focus groups to understand why people buy certain products, and get their opinions on different products. They can also see if there is a need for new products. Also, they can test advertising messages on focus groups as well.


Focus groups are used in politics. They are used to market politicians, test political campaign messages, and explore voting behavior. Focus groups can even be used to create mock trials to see how a jury might decide a case.

Non-Profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations use focus groups to see what their staff thinks of working there, and to evaluate the programs they offer. Focus groups can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of their programs, and how they can be improved.

Survey Research

Focus groups can be used to test survey questions before a survey is given out. The focus group can comment on the questions, and consider if they seem appropriate and if the wording is right. Also, focus groups can be used after surveys, to get more information on why the survey respondents answered the way they did.


In Anthropology, focus groups are good for understanding what people think about a topic–their perceptions of a topic. They are also good for finding out the vocabulary people use when talking about certain topics. Focus groups can also help researchers understand what factors people consider when making a decision, or what impact an intervention had.

Learn More

I hope you learned something from this post on the uses of focus groups. Are you interested in learning more about focus groups? Just take my Udemy course, “Exploring Focus Groups in Anthropology Research.”
Thanks for reading!
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