Focus group interviews: qualitative or quantitative?

By Avishek Majumder & Priya Chetty on April 3, 2018

Focus Group Discussion (FGD) is a research method in the social sciences, with a particular emphasis and application in the developmental program evaluation sphere (Doody, Slevin, & Taggart, 2013). Thus, they comprise of predetermined semi-structured interviews whereby broad questions are asked on a theme or a topic generating transcripts of discussion and opinions.

Focus group: a qualitative study

Focus group interviews are considered as a qualitative study whereby the perspectives of the respondents are transcribed so that how a group thinks about an issue is assessed (Doody, Slevin, & Taggart, 2013). However, focus groups help to explore interpretations of survey findings on the basis of a range of opinions or views on a topic of interest to collect a wide variety of local terms or texts or keywords. Furthermore, words and texts help to assess the main implications of the discussions and the trend of usage of words.

Focus group: a quantitative study

On the other hand, Rabiee, (2004) and Schmidt, (2015), assessed that text exported from interview transcripts can analyze excerpts from focus group interviews and undergo statistical analyses, basically frequency analyses to estimate the keywords and trend of the discussions. Rabiee, (2004), however, presented that there are a number of approaches to the analysis of qualitative data and treat them as quantifiable data. Lastly, a focus groups can be used in both qualitative and quantitative analyses, whereby the texts and words in the transcripts are statistical analyses for frequency analyses.

Differences between qualitative and quantitative focus group studies

 Qualitative analysisQuantitative analysis
Analysis methods
  • Thematic analyses
  • Content analyses
  • Narrative analyses
  • Discourse analysis
  • Grounded Theory
  • Text-based analyses
  • Descriptive analyses or frequency analyses
  • Keyword trend analysis
  • Graphical analyses
Data collection techniquesInterviews and transcriptsTexts and sentences from transcripts
Tools of analysesN/A
  • Catpac
  • Hamlet II
  • Text Analyst
  • T-lab
  • Consequently, they thematically present the responses of the interviews and conclude the findings
  • Quantitative analyses help in statistical significances and frequency analyses.
  • Moreover, there are more than 10 types of analyses and text assessments
Others differences
  • This is the most commonly used system
  • No statistical analyses are involved
  • Furthermore, it presents the visions and opinions of the respondents
  • In addition, there is no trend analysis of the opinions of the respondents
  • Lastly, interpretations are easier
  • A very new and rarely used method
  • Statistical analyses possible
  • In addition, text-based
and sentence based analyses are possible Lastly,
  • it can be used to check the trend of the data and opinions of respondents
PreferenceBased on the type of research methodology chosenBased on the type of research methodology chosen

Benefits of quantitative analyses

Researchers have a variety of choices in analyzing focus group data and fall into two categories; qualitative and quantitative. However, using the quantitative method the tools can read any text and summarize its main ideas. Furthermore, the tools associated with text-based statistical analyses search for text files and words or categories in a given vocabulary list and to count their joint frequencies within any specified context unit, within sentences, or as collocations within a given span of words. The tools help in statistical analyses of word frequencies, joint frequencies and pairs of words; along with researching co-occurrences of words and sentences. Furthermore, tools also help to compare the results of applying multi-dimensional scaling to matrices of joint frequencies of equivalent vocabulary lists derived from a number of texts. Lastly, tools had also been helpful in proximity or probabilistic affinity index analyses.

Focus group statistical analyses processes

The process includes:

  1. Conduction of focus group, whereby a group of people are first approached for interviews on a particular topic.
  2. Transcription of opinions and ideologies; will however provide the collection of data in the basis of either audio or videos. After which, transcribed data exported to text forms and sentences
  3. Conduction of statistical analyses according to requirements
  4. Lastly, text based frequencies, graphs, and other comparative analyses based on text and words


Focus group represents qualitative analysis methodologies, however, the new research and availability of tools rose quantitative analyses. Furthermore, tools allow the data collected from transcripts of focus group discussions. Thus, the availability of tools and data sciences have helped in text-based statistical analysis of focus group transcripts, thereby providing advancement to social study based research.