Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 253–270 | Cite as

Focus groups: A new tool for qualitative research

  • David L. Morgan
  • Margaret T. Spanish


Focus groups have received little attention from sociologists, although they are a commonly used qualitative technique in market research. The data collected in focus group sessions typically consist of tape-recorded group discussions among four to ten participants who share their thoughts and experiences on a set of topics selected by the researcher. We present a brief description of dimensions along which focus groups vary in their format and relate these dimensions to an example from our own focus groups, where the topic is how people think about the causes and prevention of heart attacks. We compare focus groups to informant interviews and participant observation, and we describe their application, either as a self-contained data collection strategy, or in conjunction with other qualitative and quantitative methods. We conclude with a discussion of the value of focus groups in triangulating data collection from several different methods.


Data Collection Focus Group Social Psychology Qualitative Research Group Discussion 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. Morgan
    • 1
  • Margaret T. Spanish
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiverside

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