The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 109-110).
The focused interview approach used with individuals and groups as described by Merton and Kendall (1946) was never intended as a stand-alone research method. Rather, the purpose was to “test” certain hypotheses or assumptions that resulted from content analyses conducted on “a particular situation,” such as reactions to a radio program. In other words, group interviewing, from the early days of Merton, served the purpose of supporting quantitative research by affirming or denying theories derived from survey data, or generating new ideas and hypotheses that could be verified by further survey research. To this point, Merton emphasized that from the results of group discussions, “there is no way of knowing in advance of further quantitative research which plausible interpretations (hypotheses) will pan out and which will not” (Merton, 1987, p. 558).
Focus group discussions today are, to some degree, used in conjunction with quantitative research (as prescribed by Merton) and, indeed, are an effective method for exploring new ideas and informing the design of a survey questionnaire (e.g., in terms of subject matter and language) as well as evaluating and deepening the researcher’s understanding of the survey data. The work of O’Donnell, Lutfey, Marceau, and McKinlay (2007) on physician decision making is one example of how group discussions have been integrated with the research process to improve the quantitative component. Other examples come from Vogt, King, and King (2004), who conducted focus groups with Gulf War veterans concerning war-related stressors to aid in the development of their instrument to assess psychological Read Full Text