How To Choose Between a Focus Group, Survey or Interview: 10 Nice Tips

If you are conducting research, how do you choose between focus group, survey, or interview? This article provides some nice tips to guide you.

If you’re a small business owner, student, or marketer, you’ll eventually need to test out a new product or concept. Some of the best ways to do this are to use a survey, or interview, or focus group discussion.

The question is, how do you tell which option is the best option for your business and needs? Here’s how to tell.


A survey is a set of questions that are given to a specific group of participants. Surveys may be done using paper, through digital means if it is not possible to meet the respondents, face-to-face, or carried out over the phone.

Features of a Survey

Random selection of respondents

For quantitative analysis to take place, the participants must be randomly selected. Randomization prevents bias in the selection of the respondents.

Adheres to Privacy and Confidentiality

Participants of the survey usually submit anonymous answers. This ensures the safety of the information that they provide which may be highly confidential or matters that are sensitive.

One of the biggest pros of administering a survey is that participants feel compelled to be honest, as they are anonymous and not directly corresponding with a real human.

Various Modes of Implementation

Surveys are very efficient because they can be quickly administered online or at a popular polling place such as a mall. Other options include direct interaction with the respondents that allow you to have a rich source of information. Frequently, researchers write about how the survey participants reacted to the issue and their general attitude towards answering the questions. This information is vital to the design of the questionnaire for future use.

Cost Effective

Surveys are generally cost-effective because many survey participants are not compensated for their time. But it would be good if you have the funds to spare to value their time. You pay for their opportunity cost.

One of the downsides of administering a survey is that you can’t tell what a participant means when selecting a particular answer. To ensure that you get the data you need, pre-testing to a non-respondent group can give you insights into how you should frame the questions.

Therefore, you’ll have to design the survey questions meticulously to avoid human error or confusion. Most of the information you receive from surveys will be quantifiable information useful for proof and reports.


An interview is a personalized version of a survey. In an interview, the interviewer will sit down with the interviewee and ask him or her a specific set of questions about the product or concept at hand.

Quality vs. Quantity

The essential factor to consider with an interview is that the results are much more quality-driven than quantity-driven. Though you won’t get as much information from a wide range of individuals, you’ll get comprehensive, in-depth information from one participant.

Of course, you can hold multiple interview sessions, but this will end up costing you a significant amount of money. 

Various modes of Implementation

Like the survey, interviews can also be done over the telephone, leading to increased mobility and, therefore, lower cost. However, unlike the surveys, you interview a pre-determined group of individuals representing a particular sector of society.

Focus Group

Moderator or Facilitator and Recorder as Key Elements

A focus group discussion (FGD) is a session that takes place with multiple participants but not a large group. The ideal number ranges from six to eight people.

A moderator facilitates the process, aided by the recorder who tracks the progress of the discussion and occasionally asks questions to verify vague points raised by the participants for recording purposes. The moderator asks a set of questions, and whoever feels compelled to speak will do so.

Planning Before Implementation

FGD sessions require good preparation. Careful planning of the following things prevent missing out the important information needed by the researcher namely

  1. the agenda of the discussion,
  2. key questions to ask the participants,
  3. how to record the discussion, and
  4. selection of participants.

This approach is a great way to see how your product or concept is regarded within the group dynamics and is a great way to get a quick feel for how people feel about their questions.

For example, if you were doing a focus group to get feedback for this web graphic, you could ask focus group participants to look at it on a computer there in the room and then give their thoughts about what they did or didn’t like about it.

Cost of Holding Focus Group Discussions

In terms of cost, holding a focus group can get expensive if you have to calculate in food, a moderator, and if the participants require payment. But you will be seeing and receiving opinions from more people than if you were to hold one-on-one interviews.

Detailed Queries are Limited

One of the downsides of focus groups is that you have a limited time to dig into each person’s answer. You cannot hold the group for so long as you may be interfering in their affairs, especially if no compensation is given to them for the time spent.

Updated: 31 October 2020