Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.15, No.4, 1999. pp. 495516

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Toward a Social Psychological Programme for Improving Focus Group Methods of Developing Questionnaires

Although focus groups are being used increasingly by survey and market researchers who are developing questionnaires, research to evaluate focus group methodology is scant and the social psychological dimensions of focus group processes are insufficiently examined. We review social psychological research in the areas of non-verbal communication, gender and interaction, interaction process analysis, and brainstorming groups. We demonstrate how this research is relevant to three elements of focus group methods: group composition, group size, and moderator training. We conclude that social psychological research raises several fundamental questions about commonsensical focus group practices and, accordingly, sketch out the priorities for a social psychologically motivated research programme that would address these issues.

Survey methodology; questionnaire development; focus groups; social

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