The focus group is a qualitative method in social science that is designed to bring to the fore the opinions of all parties involved. This group method aims at gathering a spectrum of perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and resistances, rather than seeking consensus.
In practice, a group of six to ten (voluntary) participants is created, representing different stakeholders concerning the subject under study. An open discussion is brought about on the basis of a number of themes that are relevant to the subject. Subsequent analysis and synthesis of the discussions enable to identify the participants' key concepts, and the points where opinions or groups converge and diverge.
A Focus Group enables to gather the following data:
1. A collection of stakeholders' perceptions, gathered without a priori hypothesis in an inductive way.
2. An insight into the attitudes towards the subject, their causes and ways to deal with them.
3. A basis for projects and policies that take into account the stakeholders' expectations.
The aim of a Focus Group is not to prove any hypothesis but to better understand the concerns, tensions and perceptions of a stakeholder group with respect to a given subject or problem.