Talking to People IV: Focus Groups
Focus groups are used for a wide variety of purposes in academic research, marketing, political campaigning, public deliberation, and policy research. A flexible method, focus groups can be understood as an extension of qualitative interviews in group contexts or as simulations of public discussion and debate. They are powerful tools that tap into processes of public discourse and therefore equally valuable to research and constitute important elements of public consultation and deliberation. The paper discusses the methodological and procedural decisions that face the researcher using focus groups and the skills required of the moderator. The paper also considers whether focus groups conducted in commercial, governmental and policy contexts enable public voices to be heard or constitute a managed show of engagement that enrolls participants in governance.
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