12.2.2 The value of focus groups
Focus group discussions can offer an effective qualitative data collection method for a number of reasons. They are good for generating ideas; for example, they may act as a starting point for introducing a new product (e.g. condom) or discussion of ideas, uses or improvements. Focus group discussions can reveal community needs, perceptions and attitudes to health services that are currently provided. They can therefore be used to assess needs and gaps, and enable the service-provider team to rethink the way they operate in order to improve the service. The discussions can also be useful for evaluating programmes and guiding programme development.
The qualitative information obtained from focus group discussions is likely to be in the form of written or spoken text. The best way to analyse such information is generally to try to identify central concepts or themes which came out of the discussions. The qualitative information obtained from such discussions may complement data collected by quantitative methods.