Having provided a definition and traced the origins and use of focus groups in academic research, this session will examine the types of focus group used and their relative strengths and weaknesses. Drawing on examples of research projects, it will also consider when to use focus groups and the factors determining the number to conduct. A comparison with other forms of qualitative research, including interviews and observation, will also be made. This section of the workshop will finish with participants considering what type of focus group would be most applicable to their research, and the research design that would accompany this.
The second half of the session will explore the key phases involved in conducting successful focus group research. This will cover preparation work, including group selection, the development of a schedule of questions and the use of other data generating activities, before exploring the process of conducting the focus group. Here, the role of the moderator and recommendations on facilitating participation will be addressed. Attention will then turn to the post fieldwork phase, with consideration given to transcription, data interpretation and analysis. Issues of data storage and protection, as well as research ethics will also be addressed. The workshop will conclude by exploring how other qualitative methods, as well as quantitative ones, can be used to complement the insights provided by focus groups, and the role that pilot studies can play in the testing of method and design.
By the end of this workshop, participants will:
- Appreciate the role of the focus group as a method of academic research
- Recognise the comparative strengths and weaknesses of focus group research and when it is best applied
- Have considered which type of focus group would be best applied to their research
- Understand the key phases involved in focus group research – from initial preparation to data analysis.
- Considered other methods that could be used in their research to complement the data generated by focus groups
- Appreciate the role of the pilot study in testing the focus group method and the accompanying research design
- Gained an understanding of the importance of ethics in qualitative research and how these relate to the specifics of focus group research.
Research Methods: The Focus Group in Academic Research
DATE: Thursday, 23rd March 2017
TIME: 13:30 to 16:30