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Thinking critically and creatively about focus groups

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Focus groups are now widely used by human geographers conducting qualitative research, and are clearly recognised as an established research method within the discipline. Despite this, there is a lack of discussion about the various methodological issues involved in using focus groups. This paper aims to open up discussion by suggesting that there is a need to think critically and creatively about using focus groups in human geography. I draw upon my experience of conducting focus groups with young Muslim men in order to suggest some of the ways in which human geographers might think critically about using focus groups. Some of the issues discussed include group size, location, context and timing, sensitivity of topic, the age of research participants and the positionalities of the researcher.
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Keywords: focus groups; group composition; locality; qualitative research; sensitive topics; timing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1 7RU, Email: peter.hopkins@ncl.ac.uk

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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