Focus Group Interviewing


-origins in marketing
-social scientists tend to use a less structured format than marketers
-shift from survey use in 1950s to focus groups at the end of the century "to get closer to the thoughts and experiences of smaller and more specific segments of society"
-cheaper than large-scale projects
-focus groups can also help develop survey instruments by bringing out key characteristics of a social issues (in our case, they can help us identify key perceptions and motivations of students, which can then be translated into course instrument development)
-can bridge social and cultural differences (can force different types of people to interact -- we can then observe these interactions in addition to the basic responses to questions)
-"The ideal group would start with an opening question that was designed to capture the participants' interest, so that they themselves would explore nearly all of the issues that a moderator might have probed. Then, just as the allocated amount of time for that question was running out, one of the participants in the ideal group would spontaneously direct the others' attention to the topic for the second question by saying something like, 'You know what really strikes me is how many of the things we're saying are connected to...'"