How To Avoid Focus Group Bias: Leading Questions
The goal of every qualitative marketing research project is to gather the kind of open and honest consumer feedback that generates accurate, viable and valuable data results for your clients. But there is one big obstacle that stands in the way of your ability to achieve this goal: bias.
Bias is inevitable. As human beings, we have a natural desire to please others. When it comes to question-and-answer situations like focus groups, that desire translates into a tendency to edit and adjust our responses. People are wired to project and respond to countless verbal and non-verbal clues, often without even realizing it. As a result, there is simply no such thing as completely unbiased focus group results.
But don’t despair … while bias cannot ever be entirely eliminated, there are a number of things you can do to limit its effects and keep your focus group data results as objective as possible. This week on the Focus Pointe Global blog, we’re taking an in-depth look at ways to combat bias in the focus group environment.
First up, it’s important to avoid asking leading questions. Much like “leading the witness” in a courtroom context, leading questions contain clues that suggest a “correct” or desired answer. Focus group participants tend to pick up on even the subtlest hints and adjust their answers accordingly. Some example of leading questions include:
- “Do you think cola drinks are bad for you?”
- “Is recycling a good idea?”
- “9 out of 10 dentists recommend brushing after every meal … what do you think?”
The best way to avoid asking biased questions that lead respondents in a particular direction is to leave your questions open. Instead of inserting a value (e.g. good or bad in the first two examples above) or beginning your question with an authoritative statement, try reformulating your questions to sound more like the following:
- “What is your opinion of cola drinks?”
- “How do you feel about recycling?”
- “What times of day do you brush your teeth?”
By keeping your questions neutral and actively inviting respondents to share their opinions, viewpoints and behaviors in a non-judgmental way, you drastically reduce bias and increase your chances of gathering the most honest and accurate data possible.
To learn more about how to ask the right focus group questions, click here for a look at last week’s discussion of how to encourage focus group participation.
For more valuable guidance to help you reduce and mitigate focus group bias, check the FPG blog later this week or click on the button below to schedule a consultation with one of the experts at Focus Pointe Global.
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