Focus groups

I have used this data collection method in many instances when the goal is to understand collective rather than individual experiences, when an example provided by one participant may stimulate additional examples by others, and when a more collective experience can encourage rather than dissuade participation. Focus groups sometimes compliment or extend one-to-one interviews.

Semi-structured focus groups are “inexpensive, data rich, flexible, stimulating to the respondents, recall aiding, and cumulative and elaborative, over and above individual responses”*

*Fontana, A., & Frey, J. H. (1994). Interviewing: The art of science. In N. K. Denzin, & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 361–376). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, p.365.

In my research on Access to Care for Ethnic Minority Seniors, groups of Punjabi, Vietnamese or Spanish-speaking seniors engaged in lively discussions about the different ways in which their access to health care was impeded. Older Punjabi men and women and people working in community agencies split into focus groups as a component of a day-long workshop on mental health promotion. This allowed space for different voices to be heard – their different contributions were shared later in the day. Focus groups with tenants of Assisted Living homes were pitched as an afternoon activity that gave people an opportunity to connect with others and allowed us to share and verify our observations about the different environmental features of their homes. Focus groups were used to understand staff and family perspectives in my research on people with dementia on the Special Care Unit where ‘Leonard’ resided.  Current and prior participants in the S4AC health promotion program for Punjabi older adults were interviewed in focus groups, as were Punjabi and Korean community members to gain a wider perspective on access to dementia care in the Building Trust study.