Focus Groups as Qualitative Research
Little Blue Book

Focus Groups as Qualitative Research

Little Blue Book
By: David L. Morgan Published: 1997 | Second Edition Edition
Methods: Focus groups
+- LessMore information
  • Copyright
  • Series Editors' Introduction

    Only a decade ago, focus groups were virtually unknown to social scientists. Now, their use in academic settings as well as outside is vast and ever-growing. In this extensively revised and updated edition of Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, David Morgan provides an excellent guide to focus groups. He carefully considers their many uses in the research enterprise and discusses effective planning and research design for focus groups. Finally, he provides concrete and practical advice on how to conduct and analyze focus groups and considers additional possibilities.

    One of the best-selling titles in the Qualitative Research Methods series, this revision will be of value to qualitative researchers in every academic discipline as well as those in nonacademic settings.

    JohnVan MaanenPeter K.ManningMarc L.Miller
  • Preface

    Much has changed during the 10 years since I began work on the first edition of this book. The most rewarding of these changes is the fact that focus groups are now a much more widely practiced research method within the social sciences. Indeed, this increasing experience with focus groups in the social sciences is the primary reason for this new edition. Ten years ago, nearly all the recent writing on focus groups came from marketing research. Today, there is a sizable literature about focus groups in anthropology, communication studies, education, evaluation, nursing, political science, psychology, public health, sociology, and many other disciplines. Indeed, more than half the references cited in this book were published since the previous edition.

    During those 10 years, I too have been busy. In that time, I have conducted more than 20 research projects involving more than-100 focus groups, as well as leading numerous training sessions and workshops. Thinking back over these past few years makes me realize how much I owe to those who were there at the beginning: Pamela G. Smith, who first drew my attention to focus groups, and Margaret Spanish, who both assisted me with and coauthored my first work in this field. Of course, I would never have been prepared to take advantage of those opportunities without the graduate training that I received from Bill Gamson in working with groups and from the late David Street in qualitative methods.

    It takes a team of people working together to make a focus group's project succeed. It has taken many more to help focus groups become better known. I have been fortunate to have good company in sharing these tasks. One particularly pleasant aspect of my work on focus groups has been the collaboration that Richard Krueger and I have developed. Although Dick and I had never met when Sage published our two books on focus groups in 1988, we have since had many chances to talk and work together in ways that continue to be enlightening to me. Over the years, I have also benefited from repeated exchanges with my colleagues Robin Jarrett, John Knodel, and Kerth O'Brien, as well as from discussions with many other social scientists who have helped me to pursue my interest in focus groups, including Duane Alwin, Gene Anderson, Janet Mancini Billson, Linda Boise, Edgar Butler, Martha Ann Carey, Ben Crabtree, Ted Fuller, Bill Gamson, Bob Hanneman, John Kennedy, Will Miller, Jan Morse, Eliot Smith, Richard Zeller, and Mary Zinkin. I have been fortunate to work with many talented graduate students, and I especially recognize Paula Carder, Marie Duncan, Steve March, and Alice Scannell for their assistance with multiple projects over the years. In addition, like so many other Sage authors, I owe a special debt to Mitch Allen for all his assistance and insights over the years. Finally, I want to thank my wife, Susan Wladaver-Morgan, not just for her consistently professional editing of my work but also for all the many other ways in which she has supported my work.

  • References
    Agar, M. H.(1986).Speaking of ethnography (Sage University Paper, Qualitative Research Methods series, Vol. 2).Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Agar, M. H.MacDonald, J.Focus groups and ethnography.Human Organization54(1995).78–86.
    Andreason, A.(1995).Marketing social change: Changing behaviors to promote health, social development, and the environment.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Axelrod, M. D.Marketers get an eyeful when focus groups expose products, ideas, images, and copy, etc. to consumers.Marketing News8(1975).6–7.
    Basch, C. E.Focus group interview: An underutilized research technique for improving theory and practice in health education.Health Education Quarterly14(1987).411–448.
    Bauman, L. J.Adair, E. G.The use of ethnographic interviewing to inform questionnaire construction.Health Education Quarterly19(1992).19–24.
    Becker, H. S.Problems of inference and proof in participant observation.American Sociological Review23(1958).652–660.
    Becker, H. S.(1986).Writing for social scientists.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    Becker, H. S.Greer, B.Participant observation and interviewing: A comparison.Human Organization16(1957).28–32.
    Berry, W. D., & Feldman, S.(1985).Multiple regression in practice.Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Bogardus, E. S.The group interview.Journal of Applied Sociology10(1926).372–382.
    Bryant, C. A.The use of focus groups in program development.National Association of Practicing Anthropologists Bulletin39(1990).1–4.
    Bryman, A.(1988).Quality and quantity in social research.New York: Routledge.
    Calder, B. J.Focus groups and the nature of qualitative marketing research.Journal of Marketing Research14(1977).353–364.
    Carey, M. A.Issues and applications of focus groups: Introduction.Journal of Qualitative Health Research5(1995).413.
    Coffey, A., & Atkinson, P.(1996).Making sense of qualitative data: Complementary strategies.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Converse, J. M., & Presser, S.(1986).Survey questions: Handcrafting the standardized questionnaire (Sage University Paper, Quantitative Research Methods series, Vol. 63).Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Crabtree, B. F., & Miller, W. L.(1992).A template approach to codebook analysis: Developing and using codebooks. In B. F. Crabtree & W. L. Miller (Eds.), Doing qualitative research in primary care: Multiple strategies (pp. 93–109).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Crabtree, B. F., Yanoshik, M. K., Miller, W. L., & O'Connor, P. J.(1993).Selecting individual or group interviews. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 137–154).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Delli Carpini, M. X.Williams, B.The method is the message: Focus groups as a method of social, psychological, and political inquiry.Research in Micropolitics4(1994).57–85.
    DiPrete, T. A., & Forrestal, J. D.(1994).Multilevel models: Methods and substance. In J. Hagan & K. S. Cook (Eds.), Annual review of sociology (Vol. 20, pp. 331–357).Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.
    Duncan, M. T.Morgan, D. L.Sharing the caring: Family caregivers' views of their relationships with nursing home staff.The Gerontologist34(1994).235–244.
    Fern, E. F.The use of focus groups for idea generation: The effects of group size, acquaintanceship, and moderator on response quantity and quality.Journal of Marketing Research19(1982).1–13.
    Folch-Lyon, E.de la Macorra, L.Schearer, S. B.Focus group and survey research on family planning in Mexico.Studies in Family Planning12(1981).409–432.
    Frey, J. H.Fontana, A.The group interview in social research.Social Science Journal28(1989).175–187.(Also pp. 3–19 in Morgan, 1993a)
    Fuller, T. D., Edwards, J. N., Vorakitphokatorn, S., & Sermsri, S.(1993).Using focus groups to adapt survey instruments to new populations: Experience from a developing country. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 89–104).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Gamson, W. A.(1992).Talking politics.New York: Cambridge University Press.
    Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L.(1967).The discovery of grounded theory.Chicago: Aldine.
    Goldman, A. E.The group depth interview.Journal of Marketing26(1962).61–68.
    Goldman, A. E., & McDonald, S. S.(1987).The group depth interview: Principles and practice.Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
    Greenbaum, T. L.(1993).The practical handbook and guide to focus group research (Rev. ed.).Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
    Gubrium, J. F.(1987).Oldtimers and Alzheimer's: The descriptive organization of senility.Greenwich, CT: JAI.
    Hayes, T. J., & Tatham, C. B.(1989).Focus group interviews: A reader (2nd ed.).Chicago: American Marketing Association.
    Hochschild, A. R.(1983).The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling.Berkeley: University of California Press.
    Hughes, D.DuMont, K.Using focus groups to facilitate culturally anchored research.American Journal of Community Psychology21(1993).775–806.
    Ingersoll, F.Ingersoll, J.Both a borrower and a lender be: Ethnography, oral history, grounded theory.Oral History Review15(1987).81–102.
    Irwin, J.(1970).The felon.Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
    Janis, I. L.(1982).Groupthink (2nd ed.).Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
    Jarrett, R. L.(1993).Focus group interviewing with low-income, minority populations: A research experience. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 184–201).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Jarrett, R. L.Living poor: Family life among single parent, African-American women.Social Problems41(1994).30–49.
    Joseph, J. G.Emmons, C.-A.Kessler, R. C.Wortman, C. B.O'Brien, K. J.Hocker, W. T.Schaefer, C.Coping with the threat of AIDS: An approach to psychosocial assessment.American Psychologist39(1984).1297–1302.
    Khan, M. E.Manderson, L.Focus groups in tropical diseases research.Health Policy and Planning7(1992).56–66.
    Kirk, J., & Miller, M. L.(1986).Reliability and validity of qualitative research (Sage University Paper, Qualitative Research Methods series, Vol. 1).Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Kitzinger, J.The methodology of focus groups: The importance of interaction between research participants.Sociology of Health and Illness16(1994a).103–121.
    Kitzinger, J.(1994b).Focus groups: Method or madness. In M. Boulton (Ed.), Challenge and innovation: Methodological advances in social research on HIV/AIDS (pp. 159–175).New York: Taylor & Francis.
    Knodel, J.(1993).The design and analysis of focus group studies: A practical approach. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 35–50).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Knodel, J.Focus groups as a method for cross-cultural research in social gerontology.Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology10(1995).7–20.
    Knodel, J., Chamratrithirong, A., & Debavalya, N.(1987).Thailand's reproductive revolution: Rapid fertility decline in a Third-World setting.Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
    Knodel, J.Havanon, N.Pramualratana, A.Fertility transition in Thailand: A qualitative analysis.Population and Development Review10(1984).297–328.
    Krueger, R. A.(1993).Quality control in focus group research. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 65–88).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Krueger, R. A.(1994).Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Laurie, H.Sullivan, O.Combining qualitative and quantitative data in the longitudinal study of household allocations.Sociological Review39(1991).113–130.
    Lazarsfeld, P. F.(1972).Qualitative analysis: Historical and critical essays.Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
    Lunt, P.Livingstone, S.Rethinking focus groups in media and communication.Journal of Communication46(1996).79–98.
    Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B.(1995).Designing qualitative research (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    McDonald, W. J.Focus group research dynamics and reporting: An examination of research objectives and moderator influences.Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science21(1993).161–168.
    McQuarrie, E. F.(1996).The market research toolbox: A concise guide for beginners.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Merton, R. K., Fiske, M., & Kendall, P. L.(1990).The focused interview (2nd ed.).New York: Free Press.
    Merton, R. K.Kendall, P. L.The focussed interview.American Journal of Sociology51(1946).541–557.
    Merton, R. K., Reader, G. G., & Kendall, P. L.(1957).The student physician.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M.(1994).Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Morgan, D. L.Personal relationships as an interface between social networks and social cognitions.Journal of Social and Personal Relationships3(1986).403–442.
    Morgan, D. L.Adjusting to widowhood: Do social networks really make it easier?The Gerontologist29(1989).101–107.
    Morgan, D. L.(1992a).Designing focus group research. In M. Stewart, F. Tudiver, M. J. Bass, E. V. Dunn, & P. G. Norton (Eds.), Tools for primary care research (pp. 194–208).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Morgan, D. L.(1992b).Doctor caregiver relationships: An exploration using focus groups. In B. F. Crabtree & W. L. Miller (Eds.), Doing qualitative research in primary care: Multiple strategies (pp. 205–230).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Morgan, D. L. (Ed.). (1993a).Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art.Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Morgan, D. L.(1993b).Future directions for focus groups. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 225–244).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Morgan, D. L.Qualitative content analysis: A guide to paths not taken.Qualitative Health Research2(1993c).112–121.
    Morgan, D. L.Why things (sometimes) go wrong in focus groups.Qualitative Health Research5(1995).515–522.
    Morgan, D. L.(1996).Focus groups. In J. Hagan & K. S. Cook (Eds.), Annual review of sociology (Vol. 22, pp. 129–152).Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.
    Morgan, D. L., & Krueger, R. A.(1993).When to use focus groups and why. In D. L. Morgan (Ed.), Successful focus groups: Advancing the state of the art (pp. 3–19).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Morgan, D. L.March, S. J.The impact of life events on networks of personal relationships: A comparison of widowhood and caring for a spouse with Alzheimer's disease.Journal of Social and Personal Relationships9(1992).563–584.
    Morgan, D. L.Spanish, M. T.Focus groups: A new tool for qualitative research.Qualitative Sociology7(1984).253–270.
    Morgan, D. L.Spanish, M. T.Social interaction and the cognitive organisation of health-relevant behavior.Sociology of Health and Illness7(1985).401–422.
    Morgan, D. L.Zhao, P. Z.The doctor-caregiver relationship: Managing the care of family members with Alzheimer's disease.Qualitative Health Research3(1993).133–164.
    O'Brien, K. J.Using focus groups to develop health surveys: An example from research on social relationships and AIDS-preventive behavior.Health Education Quarterly20(1993).361–372.(Also pp. 105–117 in Morgan, 1993a)
    Patton, M. Q.(1990).Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.).Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Pies, C.(1993).Controversies in context: Ethics, values, and policies concerning NORPLANT. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
    Pramualratana, A.Havanon, N.Knodel, J.Exploring the normative age at marriage in Thailand: An example from focus group research.Journal of Marriage and the Family47(1985).203–210.
    Punch, M.(1986).Politics and ethics of fieldwork (Sage University Paper, Qualitative Research Methods series. Vol. 3).Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Richards, T. J., & Richards, L.(1995).User's guide for QSR NUD·IST.Melbourne, Australia: Qualitative Solutions and Research
    Rogers, E. M.(1994).A history of communication study: A biographical approach.New York: Free Press.
    Rossi, P. H., Wright, J. D., & Anderson, A. B. (Eds.). (1983).Handbook of survey research.New York: Academic Press.
    Saferstein, B.(1995).Focusing opinions: Conversation, authority, and the (re)construction of knowledge. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, Washington, DC.
    Sasson, T.(1995).Crime talk: How citizens construct a social problem.Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.
    Seidel, J., Freise, S., & Leonard, D. C.(1995).The ethnograph v4.0: A user's guide.Amherst, MA: Qualis Research Associates.
    Shively, J.Cowboys and Indians: Perceptions of Western films among American Indians and anglos.American Sociological Review57(1992).724.
    Smith, M. W.Ethics in focus groups: A few concerns.Qualitative Health Research5(1995).478–486.
    Spradley, J. P.(1979).The ethnographic interview.New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
    Stewart, D. W., & Shamdasani, P. N.(1990).Focus groups: Theory and practice.Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J.(1990).Basics of qualitative research.Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
    Sussman, S.Burton, D.Dent, C. W.Stacy, A. W.Flay, B. R.Use of focus groups in developing an adolescent tobacco use cessation program: Collective norm effects.Journal of Applied Social Psychology21(1991).1772–1782.
    Templeton, J. F.(1994).Focus groups: A guide for marketing and advertising professionals (Rev. ed.).Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin.
    Thompson, J. D.Demerath, N. N.Some experiences with the group interview.Social Forces31(1952).148–154.
    Thorne, B., & Henley, N. (Eds.). (1975).Language and sex: Difference and dominance.Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
    Thurstone, L. L., & Chave, E. J.(1929).The measurement of attitude.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    Vaughn, S., Schumm, J. S., & Sinagub, J.(1996).Focus group interviews in education and psychology.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Wight, D.Boys' thoughts and talk about sex in a working class locality of Glasgow.Sociological Review42(1994).702–737.
    Willis, P.(1977).Learning to labour: How working class kids get working class jobs.Westmead, UK: Saxon House.
    Yin, R. K.(1994).Case study research: Design and method (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Zeller, R. A.(1993).Combining qualitative and quantitative techniques to develop culturally sensitive measures. In D. G. Ostrow & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), Methodological issues in AIDS behavioral research (pp. 95–116).New York: Plenum.
  • About the Author

    David L. Morgan received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan and did postdoctoral work at Indiana University. He is currently a professor in the Institute on Aging and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. His research interests center on the ways that people respond to major life changes, which has led him to study retirement communities, nursing homes, widowhood, knowledge about risk factors for heart attacks, caregiving for elderly family members, and, recently, the aging of the Baby Boom generation. When he is not conducting focus groups or writing about them, you may find him hiking in the 5,000 acres of Portland's Forest Park.