The Use of Focus Groups in Collecting Qualitative Data

The use of focus groups is constantly expanding in the health sciences field and the method has become an important tool for collecting qualitative data. Aim: The illumination of the most important aspects of focus group methodology and its unique features in collecting and analyzing data. Method: Relevant articles were identified by a computerized search of the Medline and PsycINFO databases (1980-2009). An example of the use of focus groups as a method of data collection and analysis in the early phase of a qualitative study is provided. Results: The use of focus groups as a data collection method requires the researcher to understand its peculiarities and to design systematically all the stages of the focus group, starting from selecting the participants, through to the analysis of the collected data. Used either independently or complementary to other methods, this method can prove particularly useful, both at the early stages of the research, when it is aimed at the evaluation of needs and the investigation of a new subject, but also in the later stages which may be related to the development of tools or clarification of the data collected. Among the advantages of this method are that it provides the opportunity for the researcher to comprehend the range of the participants’ opinions and it raises the really important issues as these are perceived and ranked by the participants themselves. In addition, the interaction between the members of the group is an essential source of information for the researcher. The utilization of this element enriches the analysis, designating issues about the dynamics developed during the group discussion. Conclusions: Focus groups appear to be a flexible method of data collection, since they can be used to explore various research aims, at different stages of the research process, and in combination or not with other methods. Their use leads the researcher to observation and evaluation of the process through which the data are collected, and hence to acquisition of a deeper understanding of the data which are derived.

Category: Volume 49, N 4
Hits: 32 Hits
Created Date: 15-12-2010
Authors: Aggeliki Moraiti , Danai Papadatou