Presentation on theme: "Focus Groups 21 February 2011 Ian Rowen. What are Focus Groups? Small structured discussion groups with selected participants, led by a moderator “Carefully."— Presentation transcript:
What are Focus Groups? Small structured discussion groups with selected participants, led by a moderator “Carefully planned discussion designed to obtain perceptions on a defined area of interest in a permissive, non threatening environment” (Krueger 1994) Spoken content is crucial, but group interaction also makes useful data
History of Focus Groups 1926: Group interviews (Bogardus) WWII: Used to evaluate propaganda and productivity 1950s-70s: Adopted by marketers (Lazarsfeld), mostly neglected by social scientists 1980s: Rediscovered and used to assess attitudes about contraception (Folch-Lyon et al), media (Lunt & Livingstone) 1988: First standard texts on focus groups for marketers and social scientists (Krueger, Morgan)
Data type Primary– Ex: Using focus groups to explore attitudes of groups differentiated by age, gender etc. Supplementary—Ex: To determine specific questions for surveys, interviews, or other methods Multi-Method—Ex: Triangulation with other methods for difficult or controversial topics
Kind of focus group In-person: Most common in social science research. Provides richer data Videoconference Online Telephone
Format Size: Usually six to ten participants, but can be four to twelve Composition: Usually homogenous, like-minded individuals, unless aim is to brainstorm or explore diverse opinions Length: 1.5 to 2 hours Number of different groups per study: Usually three or more An additional observer or moderator can help take notes on who said and did what
Question Guidelines Use open-ended questions: Broader, allow for freer discussion Avoid yes/no questions Use neutral questions to minimize bias Avoid why questions: They can solicit answers meant to justify, or oversimplify cause and effect
Typical Sequence Opening question: Factual—”What is your name and what do you like doing?” Introductory questions: General topic--”What do you think about tourists?” Key questions: Main research issue. Ask after group is warmed up. Transition questions: Used tactically– “We’ve been talking about… Can we move on to…” Ending questions
Advantages Social context, with discussion, feels more natural than one-on-one interviewing Useful for brainstorming or generating ideas Reveals social dynamics and the ways people in a given group can influence each other
Disadvantages People may tell you what they think you want to hear “False” consensus, with some people dominating the group Individual behavior can be influenced by group Difficulty in making generalizations or interpreting results
References Krueger, Richard A. 1994. Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Litosseliti, Lia. 2003. Using focus groups in research. London ; New York: Continuum. Morgan, David L. 1997. Focus groups as qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Stewart, David W. and Prem N. Shamdasani. Focus groups : theory and practice. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
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