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The Social Contexts of Focus Groups

The Social Contexts of Focus Groups This article argues that focus group discussions are shaped by multiple social contexts, a fact that is often ignored by researchers. Using data from a focus group study of the effects of violence on everyday life, this article provides an analysis of four such contexts: the associational, status (especially gender), conversational, and relational contexts. These multiple and overlapping contexts foster both problematic silences (lack of disclosure) and problematic speech (strategic shaping of comments) in group discussions. These processes limit the usefulness of focus groups as a tool for understanding individual thoughts, feelings, or experiences. However, they make focus groups an excellent site for analyzing the processes of social interaction. The article concludes with suggestions for improving the implementation and interpretation of focus groups in light of this analysis. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Contemporary Ethnography SAGE

The Social Contexts of Focus Groups

Journal of Contemporary Ethnography , Volume 33 (5): 36 – Oct 1, 2004

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References (79)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
Copyright © by SAGE Publications
ISSN
0891-2416
eISSN
1552-5414
DOI
10.1177/0891241604266988
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article argues that focus group discussions are shaped by multiple social contexts, a fact that is often ignored by researchers. Using data from a focus group study of the effects of violence on everyday life, this article provides an analysis of four such contexts: the associational, status (especially gender), conversational, and relational contexts. These multiple and overlapping contexts foster both problematic silences (lack of disclosure) and problematic speech (strategic shaping of comments) in group discussions. These processes limit the usefulness of focus groups as a tool for understanding individual thoughts, feelings, or experiences. However, they make focus groups an excellent site for analyzing the processes of social interaction. The article concludes with suggestions for improving the implementation and interpretation of focus groups in light of this analysis.

Journal

Journal of Contemporary EthnographySAGE

Published: Oct 1, 2004

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