Focus groups in health research
Obtaining the views and perspectives of individuals, communities and key stakeholders is crucial not only in assessing needs and documenting health issues, but also in developing and evaluating interventions. An important characteristic of focus groups is the nature of shared and socially contextualised knowledge (Markova 2012). Having its origins in market research, focus groups play an important role in health research and nursing for both exploration and evaluation (Morgan 1998a; Halcomb et al. 2007). The focus group can be used as a single method in qualitative research, but is also increasingly used within mixed methods research (Morgan 1998a; Halcomb et al. 2007; Benning et al. 2011). The increased use of this approach demonstrates the utility of focus groups to elicit a range of views and opinions in a moderated setting. Some innovative approaches of the focus group method are being developed, particularly with the use of the online media (Gaiser 2008; Liamputtong 2011). In contrast to other methods, such as interviews and surveys (see CHAPTERS 3, 13), focus groups generate data through group interaction to provide a collective perspective and socially generated knowledge (Acocella 2012; Papastavrou & Andreou 2012). Not only can this method provide data from a collective experience, it can also illustrate the polarity and diversity of opinions within a group and raise conversations about sensitive issues (Papastavrou & Andreou 2012).
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