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Rethinking the focus group in media and communications research

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The focus group is a frequently used method in the social sciences. It is particularly useful when researchers seek to discover participants' meanings and ways of understanding. In this paper we relate the history of the focus group as a research tool, from its original uses by Lazarsfeld and Merton in early communications research to its decline as social science research became more strongly quantitative and experimental. We also explore the recent revival of the focus group in audience reception studies. Contemporary uses of focus groups conducted within the critical tradition are also discussed, leading to a reappraisal of the method and its appropriateness for media and communications research. It is argued that the focus group discussion should be regarded as a socially-situated communication, and the various relations this may bear towards different approaches to mass communication are discussed, together with their implications for research practice.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/409/1/focus_group-J_Comm1996.pdf

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