Doing focus group research: Studying rational ordering in focus group interaction

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    Scholars of ethnomethodologically informed discourse studies are often sceptical of the use of interview data such as focus group data. Some scholars quite simply reject interview data with reference to a general preference for so-called naturally occurring data. Other scholars acknowledge that interview data can be of some use if the distinction between natural and contrived data is given up and replaced with a distinction between interview data as topic or as resource. In greater detail, such scholars argue that interview data are perfectly adequate if the researcher wants to study the topic of interview interaction, but inadequate as data for studying phenomena that go beyond the phenomenon of interview interaction. Neither of these more and less sceptical positions are, on the face of it, surprising due to the ethnomethodological commitment to study social order as accomplished in situ, not as something that pre-exists or goes beyond the situated interaction. This article, however, challenges not only the first, but also the second position and suggests that it is, after all, possible to do committedly ethnomethodological studies of focus group data that demonstrate how members of a focus group setting accomplish certain rational orders, and, significantly, how they do so by utilizing certain available resources.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalDiscourse Studies
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)629-644
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


    • conversation analysis
    • focus groups
    • indifferent description
    • membership categorization
    • naturalness
    • orders of rationality
    • researcher involvement


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