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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.