Initial research on Focus Groups

(Natalie Banfield)

I was having a look on the internet to get a basic outline of both Interviews and Focus Groups-What they were and how they differed.  

My first instinct was to make a general search using google.  I simply typed in Interviews and Focus Groups.  The first thing I came across was about Focus groups.

A Focus group is a structured small group interview. The reason they are called Focus Group Interviews is because they focus on two things.  The first being that the people that are being interviewed are similar in some kind of way.  This may be family members, members of a team, members working in the same job area etc.  The second being that the interview is based on a set of very focused questioned based on the topic surrounding that interview. 

Here I found a definition by Denzin and Lincoln (1994).  Denzin and Lincoln (1994, p.365) state that Merton et al. coined the term “focus group” in 1956 to apply to a situation in which the interviewer asks group members very specific questions about a topic after considerable research has already been completed. Kreuger defines a focus group as a “carefully planned discussion designed to obtain perceptions in a defined area of interest in a permissive, non-threatening environment” (1988, p.18).  

Focus groups can also be used in qualitative research.  Qualitative research uses words rather than numbers to gather information.  Focus groups can be used at any point in a research program. Stewart and Shamdasani have summarised the more common uses of focus groups to include:

  1. obtaining general background information about a topic of interest;
  2. generating research hypotheses that can be submitted to further research and testing using more quantitative approaches;
  3. stimulating new ideas and creative concepts;
  4. diagnosing the potential for problems with a new program, service or product;
  5. generating impressions of products, programs, services, institutions, or other objects of interest;
  6. learning how respondents talk about the phenomenon of interest which may facilitate quantitative research tools;
  7. interpreting previously obtained qualitative results (1990, p.15).

According to Patton (1990), focus groups interviews are essential in the evaluation process of research: as part of a needs assessment, during a program, at the end of the program, or months after the completion of a program to gather perceptions on the outcome of that program.

These are just a few notes on the basics of focus groups and how they are used.  I will blog again with some more on focus groups and then start to look at interviews next.


Have a look at this site as I found it really useful :

One thought on “Initial research on Focus Groups

  1. I have used the same approach to you which is, typing in keywords (such as; ‘benefits of focus groups/interviews’, ‘examples of focus groups/interviews’, etc.) into the google search bar and have found similar information to which you have obtained. I will be blogging my findings soon.
    I have had a look at the website that you have mentioned above, and found that it produced a lot of information about focus group, it is a very good website if someone wanted to know how a focus group should be run. A few points that I picked up while reading the site was, the number of questions asked to the group should be less than 10, one group should contain around 6-12 people and have 3-4 sets of these focus group (I feel that this depends on the topic of discussion), questions are best asked when they are unstructured and open-ended which is a good way to approach a group as it will open the table up for discussion (vital information could be found this way) and that the best way of recording this data would be note taking or having a tape recorder in the room.

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