Using focus groups to understand experiences of health and illness

Jenny Kitzinger

in Understanding and Using Health Experiences

Published in print April 2013 | ISBN: 9780199665372
Published online May 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191748585 | DOI:
Using focus groups to understand experiences of health and illness

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Focus groups are a qualitative method of data collection involving group discussion around a specific experience or issue. This approach can be particularly useful when researchers wish to encourage participants to explore issues of importance to them, in their own vocabulary, generating their own questions and pursuing their own priorities. When group dynamics work well participants act as co-researchers, taking the research in new and perhaps unexpected directions. This chapter introduces readers to the principles and practicalities of focus group research. Particular attention is paid to how interaction can help to elicit and frame the data, and how attention to interaction within the group can be used in analysis. The chapter is illustrated with examples from a wide range of health-related studies and also draws on the author’s previous research on residential care for the elderly and more recent research on residents’ and relatives’ views on long-term residential care for people with neurological illnesses and brain injuries.

Keywords: qualitative methods; data collection; focus groups; patient experience; residential care

Chapter.  4378 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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