Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Comparative Policy Analysis
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Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Comparative Policy Analysis

Edited by B. Guy Peters and Guillaume Fontaine

Public policy research has become increasingly comparative over the past several decades, but the methodological issues involved in this research have not been discussed adequately. This Handbook provides a discussion of the fundamental methodological issues in comparative policy research, as well as descriptions and analyses of major techniques used for that research. The techniques discussed are both quantitative and qualitative, and all are embedded in the broader discussion of comparative research design.
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Chapter 17: Using focus groups in comparative policy analysis

Patrik Marier, Daniel Dickson and Anne-Sophie Dubé


The use of focus groups in comparative public policy scholarship remains rare relative to other research methods such as survey research, individual interviews and statistical analyses. A search of comparative public policy articles in three leading journals (Governance; Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis; and Journal of European Public Policy) reveals only four articles where the authors conducted focus groups. This chapter provides a succinct overview on the use of focus groups in comparative policy research and in other social sciences. It also provides insights into the benefits and challenges of using focus groups in policy research. For this portion, the chapter relies strongly on the experience of eight focus groups conducted in the province of Québec (Canada), as part of a large project analysing the generosity of social policies targeting older adults. As there is already a rich literature on how to conduct focus groups, the analysis focuses primarily on why this method should be used in comparative policy analysis and on providing practical lessons from the recent experience of the authors’ research team.

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