focus group issues


The focus group concept has really backfired on me and I'm going to approach my advisor today with changing my design. It was my idea in the first place, seemed ideal, but I have 4 groups to do in 3 areas of town, they have conflicting schedules (with each other and me) and now with gas prices so high no one wants to drive to the other's area and being self-funded I can't reimburse. I feel like I've lost a few months trying to get this part to work; my design is written for focus group, then interviews. Focus groups were to initially inform the interview guide. I have 12 people on the interview list and I'm afraid of them losing interest. Any suggestions on justification on dropping focus groups? Anyone well-versed enough in quialitative methods as to pros/cons of using only one qual method instead of two? I have used the interview guide now with 2 focus groups and 7 key informant interviews in all 4 groups of subjects, so I'm pretty comfortable with it. Any suggestions much appreciated!!


Sometimes my advisor can really surprise me - I had a 1-2 page justification written out and didn't need it, as soon as I told her the barriers, she told me "just drop them then and go to the interviews"


sometimes our supervisors really do surprise us, don't they!

i'd agree. if the point of the focus groups was to have some basis on which to develop your interview guideline, and you have already got a working interview guideline, what is the remaining point of the focus groups?

the downside is that you lose the possibility of a methods triangulation. but if that wasn't the point all along, that should not really be a problem.


I was also hoping for focus groups to serve as a means of triangulation, but not at the expense of bringing the study to a (grinding) halt. I am doing mixed methods, so I have a few surveys which ask some of the main points of the interview in different ways, and that will work well too.


Hi Doc2008,

I am in exactly the same position: done two focus groups, now very difficult to organise other groups. Individal people are quite happy to participate in the study, yet when it comes to group it is very difficult to get them together (location, distance, money? easier to opt out if group event?).
In your case if individual interviews are OK, then great! I am thinking whether that may be the way forward for me as well.

Are you still going to use the focus group information in your research?



I've got the next few days booked solidly for my focus groups; 6 in two days! ahhhhh!

I orignially was conduct focus groups to develop my measures, but now I'm too late for that, so I've had to use my focus groups to discuss the significance of particular domains that we're interested in.

I set up my groups through an organisation. This organisation that I've recruited has already had set groups already working in order to conduct focus groups. I needed a translation service as well, which this organisation is offering. I've had to pay for all this, but I've managed to get all of my groups set up and organised very quickly.

I hope your focus groups work out ok! I'm really starting to get nervous about them!



first post so i hope i don't mess up.

i've been having focus group issues. the thing that helped me has been looking at the philosophical background behind qualitative research again. whilst there are strong arguments for using two qualitative methodologies (or more) these are technical arguments. hardcore qualitative researchers would probably be mortified that this kind of research takes place (no judgement here, i mix quants and qualitative so everyone hates me). in terms of justifying using only interviews, you'll be absolutely fine if you argue in terms of philosophy (i'm not a philosophy student either)!

i guess doing a phd is learning how frustrating the reality of research is. an interview schedule based on 2 focus groups and previous reseach (lit review) sounds better than the way most interview schedules are developed!


Hi pineapple,

that's interesting. May I ask if it is in the UK that you have arranged that? I am curently in Germany, not sure whether organisations exist who would organise focus groups for me. Is it expensive?


I am still planning on using the data from the focus groups, in fact I'm presenting a poster with preliminary analysis of the 2 focus groups and key informant interviews.
I think focus groups could have worked better if I had more time (I work full time & have 2 kids, only one day/week plus weekends devoted strictly to this) and had funding to reimburse for mileage,incentives or someone to help me with organizing. When I am an funded, independent researcher and can hire some staff, I will definitely go back to them, the group interaction was great and sometimes its hard to pull what I'm looking for out of a person alone but in a group setting it works better.
I think the quant methods (surveys) will work for triangulation, and you're right, developing and modifying an interview guide with the help of focus groups is certainly better than the usual techniques.
For those doing well with their focus groups congrats, I can't imagine doing 6 in 2 days!! More power to you!


hi A116 and welcome!
i also "mix" quant and qual - that is, in my masters i did quantitative stuff, my PhD is mainly qualitative, but i am working on a kind of weird quant project on the side. so it is not as much that i mix them in one project but just do them both. i find that, well, people don't "hate" me, but they certainly do think me very strange! although i must say: the qual people think i'm weird for doing, for being interested in quant stuff; the quant people think qual stuff is simply pointless and "unscientific". not quite the same, not a mirror image in the attitudes. i wonder how you experience that? how do you mix quant and qual?
sorry doc2008 for hijacking...


hi shani,

i use the technical argument. i don't really buy into the philosophy...use qualitative to inform quantitative and then qualitative to 'validate' (not really the word i'm after but am losing the ability to think today) and further explore the quantitative.


i am making use of individual interviews and focus groups. I would say -based on my research experience -making use of both is a great way of making sure that you get quality information as they are complimentary methods. when discussing stuff in groups there are certain group dynamics at play which usually allude to issues that may not come up in individual interviews. This combination normally works well as it gives you the opportunity to follow certain leads or simply clarify certain issues as well as the development of the interview schedule. if you dropped the focus groups what would your justification be for using one method? (am assuming you had a justification for wanting to use the groups in the first place)


Regarding the issue of using focus groups, I think that a major advantage is the interaction element. As a result things may come up that individual participants may not have thought about. As such I think the focus group is the prefered method if you really are looking at something new and to have an idea what potentially the issues are. Therefore changing the method can and will have an impact on the research question, may make it less valid (unless the question is changed, off course). There I am a bit worried regarding just going to individual interviews (although from a practical point of view this is a lot easier!) Any thoughts?


i'm doing "just" interviews. my strategy is to do interviews with the same persons repeatedly. that way, a) i can confront them in the second interview with topics that other interviewees brought up in the first interviews; b) i can pick up on stuff they said the first time round but i didn't realise at the time, didn't ask back. c) i get a wider variety of things, as they talk about stuff that is currently at the top of their minds - and that can change from day to day. d) as i see people again and again, they might come to trust me with more intimate stuff they wouldn't tell me the first time round.


i bought a voice recorder just now. when deciding on which one, i thought i'd get one which will allow me to do focus groups in another, later project, instead of just one that is good enough for interviews. i think both focus groups and interviews have advantages - in interviews, you have better chances of reaching intimate, personal information. focus groups are more dynamic and allow you as a researcher to remain more in the background.