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Health Educ Q. 1987 Winter;14(4):411-48.

Focus group interview: an underutilized research technique for improving theory and practice in health education.

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Department of Health Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY.


The purpose of this article is to increase awareness about and stimulate interest in using focus group interviews, a qualitative research technique, to advance the state-of-the-art of education and learning about health. After a brief discussion of small group process in health education, features of focus group interviews are presented, and a theoretical framework for planning a focus group study is summarized. Then, literature describing traditional and health-related applications of focus group interviews is reviewed and a synthesis of methodological limitations and advantages of this technique is presented. Implications are discussed regarding: need for more inductive qualitative research in health education; utility of focus group interviews for research and for formative and summative evaluation of health education programs; applicability of marketing research to understanding and influencing consumer behavior, despite notable distinctions between educational initiatives and marketing; and need for professional preparation faculty to consider increasing emphasis on qualitative research methods.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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