Edited by Larry Dwyer, Alison Gill and Neelu Seetaram
17 Focus groups Carl Cater and Tiffany Low NATURE OF THE TECHNIQUE AND ITS EVOLUTION Focus groups are one of the core methods in the qualitative researcher’s toolkit, for their ability to canvass opinions of a range of stakeholders in a relatively efficient format. In their simplest form they take the format of a group of people discussing a particular issue, with the researcher acting as facilitator. Although there is an issue or topic under debate, the method is relatively unstructured, relying on the interaction of participants to keep the discussion moving. Despite the fact that they are quick to complete, Bosco and Herman (2010) argue that focus groups are one of the most engaging research methods available. In this chapter we explore the development of focus groups, and their potential for collaborative research. Applications of the technique within tourism research are discussed, alongside some of the advantages and disadvantages of the technique. It seems apparent, however, that focus groups have been underutilized in tourism research, particularly in their critical form, and yet they have much to offer. Focus groups are particularly useful when used in combination with other methods. They may be useful in the early stages of research for providing a broad overview of a topic and generating questions that can be tested by other methods. Alternatively they may be used to test generalizations and theories that are generated by other methods. As Goss (1996, p. 113) demonstrates, they are of use throughout the research process, from orienting...
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