Publication Details

Randle, M., Mackay, H. & Dudley, D. (2014). A comparison of group-based research methods. Market & Social Research, 22 (1), 22-35.

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Market & Social Research


In the modern era, group-based methods have come to largely dominate qualitative research, particularly in the commercial arena of market research. The most commonly used method is the "focus group" technique, which involves a group of strangers being directed to discuss a pre-determined set of topics. In reality, in many parts of the world, including Australia where this study was conducted, focus groups are often employed as the default technique without systematically questioning the appropriateness of methodological characteristics or the impact they have on the resultant data. This empirical study compares two different group-based methods - the "focus group" approach and the "unfocused group discussion technique" - to identify differences in the data obtained. Differences are found in regard to a number of aspects including the non-verbal group dynamics, and the extent to which participants say everything they want to say and are able to express their true thoughts and feelings. Findings reinforce the importance of considering alternative methods when designing group-based research studies and provide empirical evidence to inform such methodological decision-making. A future agenda for group-based methodological research is discussed.

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