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Challenge & Innovation by Mary Boulton

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Chapter 10

Focus Groups: Method or Madness?

Jenny Kitzinger

Focus groups:—method or madness?1 I chose that sub-title because it reflected some of my feelings when faced with analysing transcripts of 52 group discussions. Here was a record of over 300 people’s conversations about AIDS, almost 2000 pages of people arguing, brain-storming, making faces at each other, sharing jokes, telling stories, and deviating from the point.

It is not the kind of data that are easy to quantify or even to classify. Statements are often incomplete: people’s sentences tail off into silence or their friends finish what they are saying on their behalf; some points of view are drowned out by ridicule and people contradict themselves and change their minds. The data ...

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