Benefits Of Focus Group Research Essay

5609 words - 22 pages

Benefits of Focus Group Research

Focus group research offers the unique opportunity for researchers to
perceive an individual, and their opinions, not only in an exclusive
situation, but also as part of a group. Within a group there is a
wealth of tacit and experiential knowledge from the outset as in the
course of most people's lives they will have interacted with other
people in group situations. Bryman (2001) refers to the focused
interview as the precept for focus group research,

'The original idea for the focus group- the focused interview- was
that people who were known to have a certain experience could be
interviewed in a relatively unstructured way about the

Bryman (2001) notes that the main aims and merits of focus group
research include the discovery of how people have constructed their
knowledge, why they think what they do;

Issues that concern the participants are bought to the fore as the
moderator relinquishes power. Throughout the course of the group
participants are challenged and may change or revise their views. The
researcher may also use the concepts of group dynamics to study the
ways in which individuals make sense of a phenomenon. Focus group
research differs from a group interview, as the motivation is not to
save time on individual interviews, but to study group dynamics and
get extra information from this. Arguments and 'sensitive moments'
within the group may give rise to the tacit knowledge about why
participants hold certain views.

My aim is to demonstrate firstly, the different definitions and
schools of thought on what actually constitutes a focus group, moving
from the more classical approaches to an exploration of 'radical focus
groups.' I then intend to explore the concepts of tacit, experiential
and uncodified knowledge and examine why focus groups are so efficient
at eliciting this kind of erudition, in comparison to other
qualitative methods. Finally, I will endeavour to consider the use of
focus groups as a feminist research tool and as a means to research
minority groups.

What is focus group research?

Traditional literature on focus groups suggests that there is a rigid
set of rules that should be followed in their use. Greenbaum (1998)
and Krueger (1994) uphold the view that focus groups cannot function
efficiently if these 'rules' are broken. They believe that the
researcher should avoid complex issues and sensitive data. In their
view, it is also important that participants shouldn't know each other
and that natural settings are rarely used. However, I shall also be
examining the research of Cohen and Garett (1999), which demonstrates
the effectiveness of focus groups even when these 'regulations' are
not rigidly upheld. Krueger (1994) notes that the origins of...

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