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Research Method- Focus Groups


Focus groups are qualitative research method; whereby respondents are offered open-ended questions that convey feelings or thoughts. In the focus groups, the moderator asks the respondents’ a number of questions with the objective of gaining insight regarding how the group view concepts or a certain issue. Focus groups may be utilised at the study’s exploratory or preliminary stages to develop or evaluate a certain programme of activities or in order to generate more research avenues. As it will be evidenced in the essay, focus groups may be utilised either as a technique individually or together with other research methods through triangulation, particularly to ensure validity. Akin to other research methods, some ethical requirements apply to focus groups. The purpose of this essay is to critically examine the focus groups research methods and the associated ethical issues.


are initiated with the objective of facilitating interaction between participants and maximising the gathering of high quality data within a short period of time.Acocella (2012, p.1126) influence of expectations and cultural norms should be considered when using focus groups since participants could be following dominant beliefs and ideas established by political, geographical as well as social contexts. Focus groups as pointed out by Moore et al. (2015, p.18) asserts that the that aside from being a suitable technique for collecting data from many respondents, focus groups increases the respondents’ sense of cohesiveness and enables them to freely share information. In addition, spontaneous responses can happen when using focus groups and they offer an environment where the respondents feel safe to discuss the problems facing them. Still, using focus groups successfully relies on the ability of the researcher to overcome numerous methodological limitations, such as the groups’ composition and size, timing, as well as the participants and researcher’s positionalities. oateng (2012) agrees with BOnwuegbuzie et al. (2009, p.2) posits that focus groups are much-admired and broadly utilised due to its strength of speedy results, economic advantage, convenience, and improved validity. Therefore, researchers in the field of social science are realising a number of benefits through utilisation of focus groups. oateng (2012, p.54)The focus groups is normally based on interviews (unstructured, semi-structured, or structured) and provides researchers with the ability to concurrently and systematically interview scores of respondents. B

explore how group interactions may highlight and reveal the participants’ thinking, attitudes, and perceptions and can be utilised as a tool to identify group norms as well cultural values. Focus groups enable participants to collectively develop ideas, introduce their own perspectives as well as priorities, and generate theory based on their real-life experience. When the minority groups are the majority members of the group, they can use focus groups to highlight problems facing the minority or disadvantaged groups by ensuring that their views are validated and publicised. Grønkjær et al. (2011, p.16)Focus groups according to is not only collecting individual interviews, but also to promote interaction and collaboration between the members of the group while generating data.Dilshad and Latif (2013, p.197) groups as mentioned by The goal of focus triangulation can boost the scientific knowledge credibility by refining both generalizability and internal consistency using combined qualitative and quantitative techniques in a study. Yeasmin and Rahman (2012, p.161) opine that the use of triangulation relies on the philosophical position of the researcher and can be used together with focus groups to widen and deepen one’s understanding about a certain issue. Yeasmin and Rahman (2012, p.154),Focus groups can be combined with numerous methods, theories as well as empirical materials with the expectation of overcoming the intrinsic biases or weakness and the issues attributed to its unilateral use. According to

posits that the likelihood of socially acceptable opinion to materialise in focus groups, is very high and some participants are inclined to dominate the process of research.Smithson (2000, p.116)
(Milena et al., 2008, p.1279).
discussions as open and non-threatening so as to express their opinions freelymust perceive In focus groups, participants research method is considered valuable because it generates a rich understanding regarding the beliefs and experiences of the participants.underlining such views. The further mentions that respondents in the focus groups research method must be discouraged from distancing themselves socially from the other respondents with the objective of indirectly dictating the responses’ outcome. Still, focus groups may be utilised to generate data on collective views, as well as the connotations Boateng (2012, p.56)
recommends that when there are adequate resources, focus groups should be used with other methodologies through triangulation. For instance, focus groups that generate data that are more sociologically-based can be reinforced by individualised qualitative interview to facilitate the gathering of more data with regard to a certain theme or data. Moderators or facilitators must always remember the possible dangers posed by groupthink on the focus groups’ outcome by making sure that opportunities are fairly distributed to every respondent to offer his/her perspectives. Boateng (2012, p.56)Even though focus groups may be used unilaterally in a study,

asserts that the researchers should be honest and make sure that the participants are updated regarding the topic and group expectations, and should not force the participants to talk. When using the focus groups, the researcher should be cautious when handling confidentiality and sensitive material since the method involves a lot of participants. Sagoe (2012, p.12) have a number of ethical considerations that are almost similar to the other social research methods. Prior to the study initiation, the researcher should get ethical clearance from the required authorities such as community representatives, civil authorities as well as ethics committees. Furthermore, the focus group participants’ consent is normally needed. The potential participants must be told that taking part in the focus group will be totally voluntary, and they can freely leave even after the study has been initiated. Additionally, during the selection of the participants, the qualitative researchers have to give the complete information regarding the uses and purpose of the contributions made by the participants. Mauthner et al. (2002, p.53)Focus groups as mentioned by

group method has a number of ethical issues, especially regarding the ability of the moderator to ensure the discussions’ confidentiality and making certain that participants are not identified when the study findings are published. Therefore, all the published results should be made anonymous and the researchers should retain the interviews’ transcripts and tapes. Another ethical issue is the ability to manage the sponsor relationship given that it is imperative for the focus groups’ participants to know the role played by the sponsor but with no any commercial overtones or onuses.Blackburn and Stokes (2000, p.60) maintain that focusAt first, all participants’ contributions should be clarified by the moderator before being shared with other group members. Importantly, the researcher should encourage the participants to keep everything they hear confidential.


More importantly, focus groups are important tools for gathering qualitative data and are valuable for planning, evaluating and improving a particular programme. When a focus groups research method is utilised by the skilled and trained researchers, they can bring about qualitative data that are efficiently reliable as well as valid.can offer the needed conceptual and enlightening tool that could be used to gather rich data, which could facilitate the process of decision-making and offers useful data for developing, assessing and modifying programs. the value of interaction and some of its limitations. Clearly, focus groups this has critically examined the focus groups research methods and the associated ethical issues. The essay has discussed focus groups’ main features, In conclusion, this essay


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Blackburn, R. & Stokes, D., 2000. ‘Breaking Down the Barriers: Using Focus Groups to Research Small and Medium Sized Enterprises’. International Small Business Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, pp.44-67.

Boateng, W., 2012. Evaluating the Efficacy of Focus Group Discussion (FGD) in Qualitative Social Research. International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 3, no. 7, pp.54-57.

Dilshad, R.M. & Latif, M.I., 2013. Focus Group Interview as a Tool for Qualitative Research: An Analysis. Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 33, no. 1, pp.191-98.

Grønkjær, M., Curtis, T., de Crespigny, C. & Delmar, C., 2011. Analysing group interaction in focus group research: Impact on content and the role of the moderator. Qualitative Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp.16-30.

Mauthner, M.L., Birch, M., Jessop, J. & Miller, T., 2002. Ethics in Qualitative Research. London: SAGE.

Milena, Z.R., Dainora, G. & Alin, S., 2008. Qualitative Research Methods: A Comparison between Focus- Group and in-depth Interview. Economic Science Series, vol. 17, no. 4, pp.1279-83.

Moore, T., McKee, K. & McLoughlin, P., 2015. Online focus groups and qualitative research in the social sciences: their merits and limitations in a study of housing and youth. People, Place and Policy, vol. 9, no. 1, pp.17-28.

Onwuegbuzie, A.J., Dickinson, W.B., Leech, N.L. & Zoran, A.G., 2009. A Qualitative Framework for Collecting and Analyzing Data in Focus Group Research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, vol. 8, no. 3, pp.1-21.

Sagoe, D., 2012. Precincts and Prospects in the Use of Focus Groups in Social and Behavioral Science Research. The Qualitative Report, vol. 17, no. 29, pp.1-16.

Smithson, J., 2000. Using and analysing focus groups: limitations and possibilities. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, vol. 3, no. 2, pp.103-19.

Yeasmin, S. & Rahman, K.F., 2012. Triangulation’ Research Method as the Tool of Social Science Research. Bangladesh University of Professionals Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, pp.154-63.