The paper 'The Use of Focus Groups for Data Collection in Management Research' is a wonderful example of a Management Literature Review. Many definitions of the Focus group exist. Generally, a focus group is described as an interview conducted in small groups of between 6 and 12 people (Blackburn and Stokes 2000). Focus groups are unique from other methods of research as there is a discussion of the concepts under investigation. Focus groups are alternatively known as group interviews or focus interviews. Focus groups are flexible research methods. The interviews can either be structured or unstructured.
According to Blackburn and Stokes (2000), focus groups can either be used as standalone research techniques or in combination with other research methods to triangulate results. The latter application is more common as focus groups interview are used to corroborate quantitative data. According to Blackburn and Stokes (2000), the data collected in focus groups is inaccessible using other methods of data collection. In the views of Sandura and Williams (2000), triangulation is necessitated by the inherent shortcomings in any chosen research method. Without corroborating evidence the final research evidence is limited.
Sandura and Williams (2000), argue that the use of multiple methods in the same study increases the external validity of the results that are obtained. Most notably, focus groups are widely applied in coming up with a research hypothesis, evaluating research methods, and interpreting collected research data. There are claims that focus groups are merely techniques to prepare the way for other research methods and are ineffective as standalone research methods. In management and marketing research focus groups are used to investigate employee and customers' feelings and perceptions of organizations' decisions. This paper critically evaluates the role focus group interviews play in management research.
The paper analyzes how three management articles apply focus groups to come up with new knowledge in management research. Selected Articles Blackburn, R & Stokes, D 2000, Breaking Down the Barriers: Using Focus Groups to Research Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, International Small Business Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp 44-67, 2000 Barry, ML, Steyn, H, & Brent, AC 2009, The use of focus group technique in management research: the example of renewable technology selection in Africa, Journal of Contemporary Management, Vol.
6, pp, 229-240 Holton, E. F. (1995). College graduates' experiences and attitudes during organizational entry. Human Resource Development Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 59-78. Advantages of focus groups According to Morgan (1998), the extreme flexibility of focus groups as a data collection methodology is a major advantage. Gibbs (1997) notes that focus groups offer the researcher an opportunity to explore groups' shared understanding of a phenomenon. Blackburn and Stokes (2000) aimed to gain insight from small business owners of various issues in the management of their businesses. In particular, Blackburn and Stokes (2000) sought to know how managers felt about the introduction of the Euro currency and its effects on their businesses.
Through focus groups, ideas generation is aided by participants, and with the focus being on the group ideas are spontaneously generated from group interactions. According to Stewart and Shamdasani (1990), focus groups help in investigating how participants conceive certain phenomena and “ the language they use to describe them” . Blackburn and Stokes (2000) note that group security enables participants to open up “ about their views, feelings, and experience” .
In contrast, in individual interviews, the focus on individuals limits their contribution to ideas. According to Blackburn and Stokes (2000), the anonymity of focus groups leads participants to be more candid as what they say cannot be associated with them in the future. This is particularly important if individuals are contributing to sensitive issues within the organization. For example research about how employees feel about the leadership qualities of their superiors is sensitive and most employees would not open up in individual interviews (Holton, 1995).
Barry, ML, Steyn, H, & Brent, AC 2009, The use of focus group technique in management research: the example of renewable technology selection in Africa, Journal of Contemporary Management, Vol. 6, pp, 229-240
Blackburn, R & Stokes, D 2000, Breaking Down the Barriers: Using Focus Groups to Research Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, International Small Business Journal, Vol. 19, No.1, pp 44-67, 2000
Gibbs, A 1997, ‘Focus Groups’, Social Research Update, 19, Winter, Department of Sociology
Holton, E 1995, College graduates' experiences and attitudes during organizational entry. Human Resource Development Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 59-78.
Morgan, DL 1989, Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, Qualitative Research Methods Series 16, Sage, London.
Ouimet, JA, Bunnage, JC, Carini, RM, KUH, GD & Kennedy, J 2004. Using focus groups, expert advice and cognitive interviews to establish the validity of a college student survey.Research in Higher Education, 45(3):233-250.
Sandura, TA & Williams. EA 2000. Research methodology in management: Current practices, trends and implications for future research, Academy of Management Journal, 43(6):1248-1264
Stewart, DW and Shamdasani, PN 1990, Focus Groups Theory and Practice, Sage, London.