Focus Group Interviews Bridget Turner Kelly, University of Vermont
While serving as a committee member at a dissertation oral defense, one of my colleagues asked the doctoral student to defend her use of both focus groups and individual interviews in a qualitative research design. The student began by explaining that focus group data would be collected after the individual interviews to help understand consensus among the participants. When one of the committee members suggested that consensus could be ascertained from analysis of the individual interview data, the student replied that she was conducting a focus group because it was a more convenient and time-efficient way to interview participants. Again the committee member countered that it usually was easier to schedule interviews with individual participants than to schedule a time when all of the participants could meet together. As other committee members pushed the student for the true reason she opted to include focus group data, she replied that focus groups were the only other qualitative method she had heard of in addition to individual interviews. The student reluctantly stated that she chose to conduct focus group interviews because she believed having two methods of data collection would strengthen her research design.