Focus Groups: Tools for Inquiry, Pedagogy, and Social Advocacy/Activism

This course constitutes an intensive, two-day introduction to the nature, use, and functions of focus groups in qualitative research. Course content is drawn from the instructor’s extensive experience using focus groups and his publications on focus group research. The course is composed of several related elements.

  • First, we will address the history of focus groups as data gathering tools in different ways and for different purposes across time and disciplinary contexts.
  • Second, we will explore the quasi-unique affordances of focus groups as data gathering tools.
  • Third, we will learn about deploying focus groups for different purposes: inquiry, pedagogy, and social activism, as well as multiple purposes at once.
  • Fourth, we will learn about and discuss the basic principles of effective focus group facilitation.
  • Fifth, we will collectively analyze several focus group transcripts both to get a feel for analysis as “mapping” social landscapes and to make visible and concrete the affordances and purposes of focus group work.
  • Finally, we will learn about and discuss the frontiers of focus group work and some of the challenges facing this work.

This course is appropriate both for novice researchers and seasoned researchers. Novice qualitative researchers will gain valuable knowledge and experience how focus groups can function in and enhance most research projects. Seasoned qualitative researchers should benefit by extending their understandings of the nature and functions of focus group work and exploring its post-qualitative potentials.