Focus group or individual interviews


As part of a series of investigations I am looking to explore differences in the lived experiences of two group of patients have had with an initial visit with a physical therapist. This is with a a view to describing differences, if any between their experiences.

By way of background we have shown that many patients who have more adverse thoughts regarding their painful condition at presentation are reassured very early starting care. Those who are not reassured have a significantly poorer prognosis.

I am looking to see if I can shed some light (develop a theory) as to why some patients are not reassured.

My question for the forum is, are there any reasons why I should use focus groups as opposed to individual interviews for this study.



In my research job, one of the reasons we sometimes use focus groups is that they enable us to include a larger number of non-English speakers (or limited English speakers) in the study. This is useful in cities such as NYC or London, where there's a lot of diversity. In many cases, the focus group members have helped each other with translating, or clarifying what they want to say. (It's also far less costly than hiring a translator for individual interviews.)

I'm sure you're well aware of some of the challenges involved in moderating focus groups, but this is one example of how it can make your data pool more inclusive.

It sounds like an interesting research project!


Hi Dafydd,

Do you have the opportunity to use both? Initial group interviews could produce stories that you could then explore in greater detail with some individuals, creating rich & living data with more depth than a focus group alone might provide. Some people may be more likely to open up to you in an individual interview once you've already created a rapport with them in a group scenario too.


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I'd be tempted to use interviews, so they aren't afraid of discussing things. THen use a focus group after your analysis, to kind of validate your analysis. i.e. "I found 3 themes, these were....." and let them talk about whether they agree/disagree. OR you could get them to do a second analysis for you - in my discipline we do this by putting sub-themes on cards and geting participants to do a card-sort. If their organisation of the cards matches your analysis then you have a really strong study :-)