Interviewing in qualitative research: Focus Groups
o Robert Merton and Paul Lazersfeid: 1941
o Effects of war time radio programs
o Published an article in 1956 called "focus interviewing" > first time we see
interviews in a structured kind of way
• Showed how to conduct interviews
•1950's to 1980's
o Quantitative methods dominate
o Focus groups primarily market research
1980's to today
o Focus groups move to a stand alone method
o Popular with academic research
o Internet provides new way of focus groups
What is a focus group?
•Form of group interview
o Usually semi structured
•Several participants and a moderator
•Individuals in a social context
o Emphasis on rhetoric, language, demeanor of participants, facial expressions,
emotion presented instead of the words.
o How are these responses build upon or contradicted? Or how does the group
come to a consensus? How are these opinions expressed?
•Discussion of specific issue
•Study interaction between group members
•How are opinions expressed and modified through group discussions?
Uses of focus groups
1. To examine the way people (collectively) construct and organize knowledge
2. To understand why people hold certain views
a. Participants probe and challenge each other
b. People who have polarized opinions on abortion and capital punishment
1. To elicit a wide range of views on a topic
a. If you were Trudeau's comm assistant you develop a slogan that caters towards
audience and learn how they react
1. To conduct market research
a. Or if you drink coca cola or pepsi, can people tell the difference? Developing
communication strategies to address the problem
1. Helpful in media and cultural studies
Audience reception/interpretation of texts
a. b. Communication scholars interested in how this process working or how
individuals in group are interpreting the same text
c. At every stage, whoever is creating the text what median are we using to
communicate this text . Television spot, radio etc.
d. How individuals create meaning from this text
Issues in conducting a Focus Group
• Number of groups?
o 10-15 groups is the norm
o Qualitative perspective: continue to organize groups until theoretical saturation
where you do not see any new views or how people organize content from the group.
When you're conducting focus group you need funding, have a plan of how much
it will cost
o What is your research question and what is it related to? Compare and contrast
this in society
o Looking at people from political parties thinking about capital punishment. Have
at least 2 focus groups with one from each political party. Sovereignty is the topic as
opposed to what Canadians thi