Chapter 8: Focus Groups

The following is an extract (simplified transcription) from a focus group discussion (M = the moderator). What features of the moderator’s talk suggests that this is a commercial focus group?

M: Rick     And the characteristics of this pe:rson

(.) if you can imagine them,


Mary          Powerful,


M: Rick     Powerful

Hannah      DOMIN-ANT


M: Rick     Dominant,

(Puchta et al., 2004)

This encourages you to think in a constructionist way about Bloor et al.’s data. Examine when Simon refers to ‘friends’ in Extract 8.2 and consider what interactional ‘work’ is achieved by these references in these places. For instance, show what other interpretations of his smoking Simon’s references to his friends may exclude.

Return to Extract 8.3 and answer the following questions:

  • What ‘stake’ does Gertie show in her account of the possible causes of breast cancer; that is, does she wholeheartedly assert these things or does she seek to distance herself from what she has heard?
  • Does Gertie change her stake in what she is saying during the course of the discussion? If so, point out what features may lead her to change her position?

[If you need further information about ‘stake’ analysis, refer to Section 11.1.3].

Compare the findings of Wilkinson’s approach to the Macnaghten and Myers (2004) ‘chopping up trees’ approach:

  1. Do you find these constructionist approaches to focus group data more convincing than the alternatives?
  2. Can you find any ways in which these two studies can help answer substantive questions about the topics which the participants discussed?
  3. Should we prefer content or thematic analysis since they seem to offer clear answers to policy-relevant questions?

Extract 8.5 below comes from a focus group with Danish women in their forties. The participants have sorted pictures and recipes cut from women’s magazines, and they are now in the middle of discussing what good and bad cooking means to them.

  • What themes can you find in the talk?
  • What interactional processes can you discover as the participants come to a conclusion about what fried food signifies?

EXTRACT 8.5 [Halkier, 2010: 75]

Sonja: When I was a child, when we had fish it was these frozen fish fingers…

Karen [interrupts]: Yes, THAT is disgusting [Sonja: He, he…] … that is bad cooking.

Dorte: Yes, it is.

Sonja: That is simply YUKKY.

Birgit: Yes, my kids love them…

Dorte [interrupts]: No, nobody likes fish fingers.

Birgit: Yes, I like them.

Karen: It’s the same with that breaded fish you can buy, it’s only breading.

Birgit: No, that depends on which ones you buy … some of it is okay to buy…

Karen [interrupts]: I will rather buy it without breading, and then … [pause]

Birgit [interrupts]: …where there is a lot of fish… [pause] [Karen: do it myself] but that is [Sonja: You don’t know what’s in there] obvious…

Karen: No.

Sonja: It looks like such stuff.

Karen: Yep.

Sonja: Oh yes, that’s bad cooking too. To me bad cooking is doing it with deep-frying.

Birgit: Yes, all right I can only admit that [Karen: Yes] to you … we don’t use that either.

Karen: I also think…

Sonja [interrupts]: But then again, it’s that fat.

Karen: I actually used it, I used it to deep-fry those camembert cheeses for dessert, but I have begun to make that in the oven … that’s actually the only deep-fry…

Dorte: It’s a long time since you have made that dessert for us.