Interviewing is a common qualitative research strategy. Group interviewing or focus groups is also a viable option. “With focus group interviews, the researcher is able to collect data from multiple participants and also to observe and record the interactions and group dynamics that unfold” (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2006).
Key points to consider:
- Identify a relevant group (6-8 participants per group)
- Identify as many groups as you want (4-6 groups is usually sufficient)
- Locate a “warm, comfortable convenient setting in which to entertain your group”
- “Don’t intrude on the group’s deliberations”
- Provide a time frame for completion
- Either use audio recording or a note-taker or both to capture the conversation (Davies, 2007)
During a focus group interview, Davies (2007) explains how it is necessary to begin the interview with an explanation of the task at hand complete with timeframe, guiding topics, and rules to follow. “Two useful ideas are to ask people to be courteous to each other and to indicate that there is an expectation that all those present will be free to contribute equally” (Davies, 2007). Although you must begin with a set of preliminary questions, a focus group interview needs some flexibility to allow for group conversation. As the interviewer, you will interact as little as possible but interject questions that allow the group members to respond to each other (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2006).
- Davies, Martin Brett. (2007). Doing a successful research project: Using qualitative or quantitative methods. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.
- Ely, Margot. (1991). Doing qualitative research: Circles within circles. London; New York: The Falmer Press.
- Krueger, R.A. & Casey, M.A. (2009). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Los Angeles: Sage.
- Lodico, M.G., Spaulding, D.T., & Voegtle, K.H. (2006) Methods in educational research: From theory to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Lofland, John & Lofland, Lyn H. (2004). Analysing social situations: A guide to qualitative observation and analysis. London: Wadsworth
- McKinney, Kathleen. (2007). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Saam, Mack @ FACET, 2014
- Dr. Richard Krueger's (University of Minnesota) step by step guide to using focus groups
- Dr. Krueger's guide to focus groups (pdf)
- Excellent guide to moderating and taking notes in focus groups from University of Oregon assessment resources
- Brief overview of focus group research from Iowa State University
- Overview of conducting focus groups from NOAA (pdf)