Group Composition

  • The group composition can critically affect the group dynamics and outcome of a focus group. How to form a group has to be considered in relation to the research topic.
  • Once a focus group session has started, it is difficult to control and change its dynamics is hardly controlled and altered. If group members are incompatible with each other, useful data may not be produced.
  • Purposeful sampling for making appropriate group composition at the planning stage is a must to partially control the unwanted silence or uncomfortable conflicts of group members.
  • Participants in a focus group are preferably homogenous in terms of status or power to achieve compatibility, such as educational level, social class, gender, occupation, age, race or ethnicity, marital status, family composition, etc (Morgan and Krueger, 1998 :59).
  • Power politics or unequal status between group members can lead to the domination of some participants (Carey and Asbury, 2012:42).

Recruitment: Strangers or Acquaintances?

Although a group of acquaintances appears to be easier to manage, Morgan (1998) warns that there are several problems when interviewing acquaintances in a group.

  1. Problem of Confidentiality
    The presence of acquaintances would limit confidentiality, because the information or opinions share may have later consequences.

    Student participants may feel uncomfortable of speaking 
    openly about their discontent of certain school policies 
    in front of other students, because there is a possibility
    that such comments would be leaked out to teachers or
    other schoolmates.
  2. Private conversation ruining group atmosphere
    There is a possibility when some participants turn to have private conversations on their own, or even ‘just share glances and giggles that make others feel left out’ (Morgan, 1998:67). This would ruin the atmosphere for an open and dialogical discussion between group members.