The Use of Focus Groups in Design Science Research

  • Monica Chiarini Tremblay
  • Alan R. Hevner
  • Donald J. Berndt
Part of the Integrated Series in Information Systems book series (ISIS, volume 22)


Focus groups to investigate new ideas are widely used in many research fields. The use of focus groups in design science research poses interesting opportunities and challenges. Traditional focus group methods must be adapted to meet two specific goals of design research. For the evaluation of an artifact design, exploratory focus groups (EFGs) study the artifact to propose improvements in the design. The results of the evaluation are used to refine the design and the cycle of build and evaluate using EFGs continues until the artifact is released for field test in the application environment. Then, the field test of the design artifact may employ confirmatory focus groups (CFGs) to establish the utility of the artifact in field use. Rigorous investigation of the artifact requires multiple CFGs to be run with opportunities for quantitative and qualitative data collection and analyses across the multiple CFGs. In this chapter, we discuss the adaptation of focus groups to design science research projects. We demonstrate the use of both EFGs and CFGs in a design research doctoral thesis in the health-care field.


Focus Group Focus Group Participant Data Analytic Strategy Design Artifact Design Science Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Al-Shorbaji, N. (2001) Health and Medical Informatics: Technical Chapter, in Health Information Support, Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, World Health Organization, Cairo, Egypt.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, T. and D. A. Collier (2005) The Economic Payout Model for Service Guarantees, Decision Sciences 36 (2), p. 197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ballou, D., R. Wang, H. Pazer, and G. K. Tayi (1998) Modeling information manufacturing systems to determine information product quality, Management Science 44 (4), pp. 462–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ballou, D. P. and H. L. Pazer (1985) Modeling data and process quality in multi-input, multi-output information systems, Management Science 31 (2), pp. 150–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Basili, V. R. (1996) The role of experimentation in software engineering: past, current, and future, in Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Software Engineering, Berlin, Germany, IEEE Computer Society.Google Scholar
  6. Baskerville, R. and M. D. Myers (2004) Special issue on action research in information systems: making is research relevant to practice-foreword, MIS Quarterly 28 (3), p. 329.Google Scholar
  7. Benbasat, I. and R. Weber (1996) Research commentary: rethinking “diversity” in information systems research, Information Systems Research 7 (4), p. 389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berndt, D. J., A. R. Hevner, and J. Studnicki (2003) The CATCH data warehouse: support for community health care decision-making, Decision Support Systems 35 (3), p. 367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bloor, M., J. Frankland, M. Thomas, and K. Robson (2001) Focus Groups in Social Research, Sage, London.Google Scholar
  10. Chapman, G. B. and A. S. Elstein (2000) Cognitive Processes and Biases in Medical Decision Making, in G. B. Chapman and F. A. Sonnenberg (eds.) Decision Making in Healthcare: Theory, Psychology and Applications, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, J. (1960) A coefficient of agreement for nominal scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement 20 (1), pp. 37–46.Google Scholar
  12. Cole, R., S. Purao, M. Rossi, and M. k. Sein. (2005) Being proactive: where action research meets design research, in Twenty-Sixth International Conference on Information Systems, Las Vegas, 2005.Google Scholar
  13. Debreceny, R., M. Putterill, L.-L. Tung, and A. L. Gilbert (2003) New tools for the determination of e-commerce inhibitors, Decision Support Systems 34 (2), p. 177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Derose, S. F. and D. B. Petitti (2003) Measuring quality of care and performance from a population health care perspective, Annual Review of Public Health 24 (1), pp. 363–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Derose, S. F., M. A. Schuster, J. E. Fielding, and S. M. Asch (2002) Public health quality measurement: concepts and challenges, Annual Review of Public Health 23 (1), pp. 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Desanctis, G. and R. B. Gallupe (1987) A foundation for the study of group decision support systems, Management Science 33 (4), pp. 589–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Friede, A., H. L. Blum, and M. McDonald (1995) Public health informatics: how information-age technology can strengthen public health, Annual Review of Public Health 16 (1), pp. 239–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Galliers, R. D. (1991) Choosing appropriate information systems research approaches: a revised taxonomy, in H. E. Nissen, H. K. Klein, and R. Hirschheim (eds.) Information Systems Research: Contemporary Approaches and Emergent Traditions, Elsevier Science Pub., Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  19. Hevner, A., S. March, J. Park, and S. Ram (2004) Design science research in information systems, Management Information Systems Quarterly 28 (1), pp. 75–105.Google Scholar
  20. Hevner, A. R. (2007) A three cycle view of design science research, Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems 19 (2), pp. 87–92.Google Scholar
  21. Iversen, J. H., L. Mathiassen, and P. A. Nielsen (2004) Managing risk in software process improvement: an action research approach, MIS Quarterly 28 (3), p. 395.Google Scholar
  22. Jarvenpaa, S. L. and K. R. Lang (2005) Managing the paradoxes of mobile technology, Information Systems Management 22 (4), p. 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. King, N. (1998) Template Analysis, in G. Symon and C. Cassell (eds.) Qualitative Methods and Analysis in Organizational Research, Sage Publications, London.Google Scholar
  24. Kitzinger, J. (1994) The methodology of Focus groups: the importance of interaction between research participants. Sociology of Health 16 (1), pp. 103–121.Google Scholar
  25. Kontio, J., L. Lehtola, and J. Bragge (2004) Using the focus group method in software engineering: obtaining practitioner and user experiences, International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering Proceedings of the 2004 International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering , IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, pp. 271–280.Google Scholar
  26. Krueger, R. A. and M. A. Casey (2000) Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research, 3rd edn, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.Google Scholar
  27. LeRouge, C. and F. Niederman (2006) Information systems and health care Xi: public health knowledge management architecture design: a case study, Communications of the Association for Information Systems 18, p. 15.Google Scholar
  28. Lindgren, R., O. Henfridsson, and U. Schultze (2004) Design principles for competence management systems: a synthesis of an action research study, MIS Quarterly 28 (3), p. 435.Google Scholar
  29. Maibach, E. and D. R. Holtgrave (1995) Advances in public health communication, Annual Review of Public Health 16 (1), pp. 219–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Manning, P. K. (1996) Information technology in the police context: the “sailor” phone, Information Systems Research 7 (1), p. 52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mantei, M. M. and T. J. Teorey (1989) Incorporating behavioral techniques into the systems development, MIS Quarterly 13 (3), p. 257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Markus, M. L., A. Majchrzak, and L. Gasser (2002) A design theory for systems that support emergent knowledge processes, MIS Quarterly 26 (3), pp. 179–212.Google Scholar
  33. Massey, A. P. and W. A. Wallace (1991) Focus groups as a knowledge elicitation technique: an exploratory study, IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering 3 (2), pp. 193–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Merton, R. K. and P. L. Kendall (1946) The focused interview, The American Journal of Sociology 51 (6), pp. 541–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morgan, D. L. (1988) Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA.Google Scholar
  36. Nielsen, J. (1997) The use and misuse of focus groups, IEEE Software 14 (1), pp. 94–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shankaranarayan, G., M. Ziad, and R. Y. Wang (2003) Managing data quality in dynamic decision environments: an information product approach, Journal of Database Management 14 (4), pp. 14–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith, H. J., S. J. Milberg, and S. J. Burke (1996) Information privacy: measuring individuals’ concerns about organizational practices, MIS Quarterly 20 (2), p. 167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stewart, D. W., P. N. Shamdasani, and D. W. Rook (2007) Focus Groups: Theory and Practice, 2nd edn., vol. 20, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA.Google Scholar
  40. Torkzadeh, G., J. C.-J. Chang, and G. W. Hansen (2006) Identifying issues in customer relationship management at Merck-Medco, Decision Support Systems 42 (2), p. 1116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tremblay, M. C., R. Fuller, D. Berndt, and J. Studnicki (2007) Doing more with more information: changing healthcare planning with OLAP tools, Decision Support Systems 43 (4), pp. 1305–1320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. U.S. Congress (1995) Bringing Health Care Online: The Role of Information Technologies, Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  43. Venable, J. R. (2006) The role of theory and theorizing in design science research, in DESRIST Conference, Claremont, CA, 2006.Google Scholar
  44. Wang, R. Y. and D. M. Strong (1996) Beyond accuracy: what data quality means to data consumers, Journal of Management Information Systems 12 (4), pp. 5–34.Google Scholar
  45. Wellner, A. S. (2003) The new science of focus groups, American Demographics 25 (2), p. 29.Google Scholar
  46. Xia, W. and G. Lee (2005) Complexity of information systems development projects: conceptualization and measurement development, Journal of Management Information Systems 22 (1), p. 45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag US 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica Chiarini Tremblay
    • 1
  • Alan R. Hevner
    • 2
  • Donald J. Berndt
    • 3
  1. 1.Florida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.College of BusinessUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.College of Business at the University of South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations