• Summary
  • Overview
  • Key Readings

Focus groups are a popular, widely accepted, and legitimate research method to determine attitudes, experiences, perceptions, and knowledge on a wide range of topics in many fields of endeavor. For example, studies have been conducted to examine participants' favorite pizza toppings, their quality of life following hip replacement surgery and how they feel about human cloning. Focus groups lead to the voicing of attitudes and insights not readily attainable from other qualitative forms of data collection. The spectrum of interest in focus groups covers virtually all disciplines, and the variety of the applications for this technique is extraordinary. In nine parts, Graham Walden explores what a focus group is, how they are best used, the strengths and weaknesses of focus groups and the ethical issues surrounding focus groups, amongst other things.

Editor's Introduction: Focus Group Research
Part One: Orientation
1.1 Definitions, Characteristics, and Overview Studies

Focus group interviewing is a qualitative data-collection paradigm whose fundamental assumptions and methodological guidelines are widely accepted and practiced worldwide. The prototypic contemporary focus group involves an open, in-depth discussion with a small group of carefully selected individuals who are drawn from, but not necessarily representative of, targeted sectors of the population of interest. Focus group membership is therefore normally based on purposive or convenience samples rather than on probability samples. Such groups are said to be “focused” because the goal of the exchange is to obtain information about a single, predetermined topic (or a limited range of topics) deemed relevant to the research question. The intent is to examine people's perceptions, ...

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