Edited by Russell W. Belk
Miriam Catterall and Pauline Maclaran Introduction Qualitative marketing research and academic marketing and consumer research have grown in parallel with little contact between the two (Catterall and Clarke, 2000). This lack of communication between commercial and academic consumer research has meant that, overall, commercial qualitative research practices have often been disparaged and judged as lacking theoretical and methodological depth. As the most popular commercial qualitative marketing research technique, the focus group has borne the brunt of such criticisms (Achenbaum, 1995). More recently, it has become something of an unfashionable technique, overshadowed by the current search for ethnographic ‘insights’, and is generally overlooked in the academic literature. Thus as academic marketing and consumer researchers our main, or only, model of focus group research is drawn from the extensive practitioner literature on the subject. In this chapter we revisit the market research focus group. We discuss the three key issues in undertaking focus group research, namely the role of group dynamics, the theories that inform focus group research approaches, and focus group implementation practices. In doing so we argue that there is far more variety, innovation and creativity in focus group research than is generally assumed. However we begin by placing this discussion in a wider historical context. The origins and rise of the focus group The focus group is believed to have originated in the USA and patrimony is most usually attributed to the sociologist Robert Merton. The term ‘focus group’ is generally assumed to have derived from the focused interview...
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