Focus Groups - rethinking natural interactions in a artificial situation
Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research University of Aarhus Copenhagen S, Denmark
The focus group method is unique in the social sciences because it provides the opportunity to conduct interviews on chosen topics while observing the social interaction that occurs. The paper discusses the focus group method with special attention to its similarities with the social experiment. Focus groups are not natural, social settings, and it is precisely due to this fact that the focus group provides a privileged opportunity for producing interesting data. Thus, the method differs radically from both the sociological in-depth interview and ethnographical observations: the focus group does not merely allow the observer to interrogate and observe the social; it actively influences the construction of these parameters through sampling and moderation. At the same time the focus group must relate to a form of naturally occurring interactions between group participants. The paper discusses some of the methodological problems and possibilities in this intersection between the constructed and the naturally occurring data.. The discussion is based on a focus group study with adolescents on the topic of drinking.