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Keywords:

  • focus groups;
  • qualitative research;
  • data collection;
  • nursing

Background.  Focus group interviews are a method for collecting qualitative data and have enjoyed a surge in popularity in health care research over the last 20 years. However, the literature on this method is ambiguous in relation to the size, constitution, purpose and execution of focus groups.

Aim.  The aim of this article is to explore some of the methodological issues arising from using focus group interviews in order to stimulate debate about their efficacy.

Discussion.  Methodological issues are discussed in the context of a study examining attitudes towards and beliefs about older adults in hospital settings among first-level registered nurses, nursing lecturers and student nurses. Focus group interviews were used to identify everyday language and constructs used by nurses, with the intention of incorporating the findings into an instrument to measure attitudes and beliefs quantitatively.

Conclusions.  Experiences of conducting focus group interviews demonstrated that smaller groups were more manageable and that groups made up of strangers required more moderator intervention. However, as a data collecting strategy they are a rich source of information.