Chapter 29: Group Interviews: Understanding Shared Meaning and Meaning-Making
Dawn H. Currie and Deirdre M. Kelly Talking with people is probably the most common way that qualitative researchers generate data. As we have seen in previous chapters, this talk can take many different forms. In this chapter we explore group interviews. Little consensus exists on exactly what constitutes a ‘group interview’. This may be surprising in light of their distinguished history. Bogardus is credited with pioneering group interviews to test his social distance scale in 1926. Since then, Thompson and Demerath (1952) used group interviews to identify management issues in the military, and Zuckerman (1972) to interview Nobel Laureates. More recently, Green and Hart (1999) used group interviews in their research on accidents involving children in order to understand how children define ‘risk’, and Kitzinger (1994) to access the ways people construct social knowledge through peer interaction. Frey and Fontana (1991) suggest that group interviews likely have been used extensively in ethnographic research, but not reported as such. An example might be William Whyte’s (1943) classic study, Street Corner Society. Robert Merton (1986) sheds light on the situation, reporting that ‘focus interviews with groups’ were employed by sociologists throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Due to the cost effectiveness of talking with more than one participant at a time, the technique was popularized by marketing researchers during the 1960s and transformed into ‘focus group discussions’ (FGDs, see Chapter 28). One result is the continued conflation of group interviews with FGDs. When used by marketers, FGDs solicit ‘opinions’ from participants with...
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