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The Pitfalls and Promise of Focus Groups as a Data Collection Method

Cyr, Jennifer

Sociological methods & research. Volume 45:Number 2 (2016, May); pp 231-259 -- Sage Publications

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  • Title:
    The Pitfalls and Promise of Focus Groups as a Data Collection Method
  • Author: Cyr, Jennifer
  • Found In: Sociological methods & research. Volume 45:Number 2 (2016, May); pp 231-259
  • Journal Title: Sociological methods & research
  • Subjects: Sociology--Methodology--Periodicals; Sociology--Research--Periodicals; focus groups--qualitative methods--mixed methods--research transparency--social sciences; Dewey: 301.072
  • Rights: legaldeposit
  • Publication Details: Sage Publications
  • Abstract:

    Despite their long trajectory in the social sciences, few systematic works analyze how often and for what purposes focus groups appear in published works. This study fills this gap by undertaking a meta-analysis of focus group use over the last 10 years. It makes several contributions to our understanding of when and why focus groups are used in the social sciences. First, the study explains that focus groups generate data at three units of analysis, namely, the individual, the group, and the interaction. Although most researchers rely upon the individual unit of analysis, the method's comparative advantage lies in the group and interactive units. Second, it reveals strong affinities between each unit of analysis and the primary motivation for using focus groups as a data collection method. The individual unit of analysis is appropriate for triangulation; the group unit is appropriate as a pretest; and the interactive unit is appropriate for exploration. Finally, it offers a set of guidelines that researchers should adopt when presenting focus groups as part of their research design. Researchers should, first, state the main purpose of the focus group in a research design; second, identify the primary unit of analysis exploited; and finally, list the questions used to collect data in the focus group.


  • Identifier: System Number: LDEAvdc_100065424456.0x000001; Journal ISSN: 0049-1241; 10.1177/0049124115570065
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Physical Description: Electronic
  • Shelfmark(s): ELD Digital store

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