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The Devil's Advocate: A Strategy to Avoid Groupthink and Stimulate Discussion in Focus Groups

Qualitative Health Research , Volume 7 (4): 532 – Nov 1, 1997

Details

Publisher
Sage Publications
Copyright
Copyright © 1997 by SAGE Publications
ISSN
1049-7323
eISSN
1049-7323
D.O.I.
10.1177/104973239700700407
Publisher site
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The Devil's Advocate: A Strategy to Avoid Groupthink and Stimulate Discussion in Focus Groups

Abstract

The focus group is an increasingly popular qualitative research method in health research to gain insight into complex problems. Concerns have been expressed about how best to stimulate free and open discussion; especially on controversial issues and/or when the group comprises people with different power and status. A potential pitfall of the focus group technique is group-think: the impact of censoring and conforming as described by such social psychologists as Irving Janis. The article describes an evaluation of a method to reduce groupthink and stimulate creativity and controversy in focus groups that analyzed consultation between an Australian federal government department and its communities. The article recommends to researchers using focus groups the selective use of devil's advocates to reflect different perspectives to groups, to ask questions in a different way, to introduce new questions, and to avoid groups arriving at premature solutions.
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