This book critically examines the potential of, and suggests ways forward in, harnessing a versatile and powerful method of research - focus groups. The book challenges some of the emerging orthodoxies and presents accessible, insightful and reflective discussions about the issues around focus group work. The contributors, an impressive group of experienced researchers from a range of disciplines and traditions, discuss different ways of designing, conducting and analyzing focus group research. They examine sampling strategies; the implications of combining focus groups with other methods; accessing views of `minority' groups; their contribution to participatory or feminist research; use of software packages; discourse analysis; and the epistemological and political underpinnings of research.

Can Focus Groups Access Community Views?

This chapter considers whether focus groups can contribute to an understanding of community attitudes to risks. We look at this question on two different levels. The first level appraises the use of focus groups, in contrast to opinion polls, as a methodology for ascertaining community attitudes. The second level considers the challenges of interpretation of focus group data. Using an example of an attitude poll held near Sellafield, West Cumbria, in contrast to our own research using focus groups in the same area, we demonstrate that focus groups can certainly uncover a far richer sense of community views on nuclear risks than that ascertained through the poll. We argue that opinion polls have constructed a misleadingly simple and impoverished ...

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