Focus groups in health research
Obtaining the views and perspectives of stakeholders is crucial not only in assessing needs and documenting health issues, but also in developing and evaluating interventions. Originating in the realm of market research, focus groups have evolved to fill an important niche in health research and nursing for both exploration and evaluation (Morgan 1998; Halcomb et al. 2007; Krueger & Casey 2009). The rapid growth of the popularity of this method 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 adopted with the online moderation of focus groups (see Liamputtong in press). In contrast to other methods, such as interviews and surveys (see CHAPTERS 3, 13), focus groups generate data to provide a collective perspective (Liamputtong 2010, in press). Not only does this method generate a collective perspective, but it can also illustrate the polarity and diverSity of opinions. Although debate continues on the value and merit of focus groups, like most approaches to research, high-quality focus groups are dependent on planning and adhering to methodological rigour (Morgan 1998; Wilkinson 1998; Willis et al. 2009). In focus groups, planning that encompasses the logistics of recruitment, organising venues and managing group dynamics is just as important as the development of your proposal, data analysis, report writing and manuscript preparation. In this chapter we will outline the rationale for choosing focus groups as a method of data collection, the advantages and disadvantages of this approach and the sequential steps involved in planning and undertaking a focus group in nursing and health research.