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Focus Group Summary and Activity (Morgan)

Notes are located here:


Design an outline of a study which incorporates the following use of a focus group:

  • Self-Contained Focus Group (p18)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Individual Interviewing (p22)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Participant Observation (p23)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Surveys (p25)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Experiments (p28)

Be sure to include the following:

  • A research question(s)
  • A brief methodology
  • A plan for analysis of your collected data

Morgan, D.L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research. (Jazmine,Noemi, Brandon

Morgan, D.L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research. California: Sage Publications.

Focus Groups as Qualitative Research: Second Edition

 Focus Groups as a Qualitative Method

•Qualitative Research
       •Participant Observation
        •Focus Groups
        •Open-Ended Interviews

Focus Groups versus Participant Observation

Main Advantage: Focus groups give the researcher the ability to observe a large amount of interaction on a topic in a limited period of time.

Main Disadvantage: Focus groups do not give the interviewer the same amount of control as individual interviews do. Additionally, focus groups limit the amount of information that each informant has time to share.

Focus Groups versus Individual Interviews

Main Advantage: Focus groups give the researcher the ability to observe interaction on a topic. Additionally, focus groups make it easier to conduct less structured interviews which are especially useful for exploratory research.

Main Disadvantage: The degree of naturalism is lower in focus groups as compared to participant observation (e.g. unnatural social settings).

The Uses of Focus Groups

Use of Focus Groups

Feature(s) and Benefit(s)

Self-Contained Focus Groups p. 18

Research results stand on their own

Linking Focus Groups and Individual Interviewing p. 22

May contribute to future methodology (e.g. unstructured focus group can inform later structured interviews; May assist with learning about the differences among potential interviewees; One method can be conducted as a follow-up to the other)

Linking Focus Groups and Participant Observations

p. 23

May provide concentrated insight into participants’ thinking on a given topic; May assist with the selection of a site for participant observation; May contribute to theoretical sampling

Linking Focus Groups and Surveys p. 25

May provide an a means to construct future surveys/questionnaires; focus group participants can the sources of the original item pool; focus groups may capture all the domains that need to be measured in survey; focus groups may determine the dimensions that make up each of these domains; focus groups may provide insight into appropriate item language; focus groups may of value in preliminary work by generating hypotheses

Linking Focus Groups and Experiments p. 28

Focus groups may help to define “manipulations” of independent variables in an experimental context; embraced in the experimental research of intervention programs; focus groups can be used to design media campaigns; useful in the selection of appropriate outcome measures; focus groups can “put a human face” on quantitative research

(Morgan; McCleary & Gonzalez) Focus Groups [Donna]

Morgan, D. L. (1988). Focus groups as qualitative research. Newbury Park, Calif: Sage Publications.

In his book, Morgan defines focus groups as a “research technique that collects data through group interaction on a topic determined by the researcher.” (p.6) Focus groups can be used as a supplementary tool where the groups serve as a source of preliminary data for a primarily quantitative study or they can be used as to provide follow-up data to assist with a primary method (i.e. greater understanding of poorly understood survey results). Focus groups may also be used as a self-contained method where the focus group is the primary means of collecting data in a qualitative study. This type of study leads to an emphasis on the design of the research. When conducting a multi-method research study, focus groups add to the data from other qualitative methods, for instance if conducting an ethnography, the researcher would simply add focus groups as an additional method of collecting the data, say in addition to individual interviews. Continue reading