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A rose by any other name may smell as sweet but “group discussion” is not another name for a “focus group” nor should it be

Clive Boddy (Middlesex University Business School, London, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 1 September 2005




This paper seeks to highlight the current confusion in the terminology for group research, identify the geographic, historical and scientific sources of this confusion and suggest a reduction in the number of terms used to two, thereby offering a definition on which researchers from different cultural backgrounds and scientific traditions may be able to agree.


A review of the academic and practitioner literature on qualitative group research in academic, social and market research indicates that various terms for groups are used interchangeably and are often assumed to have the same meaning. These terms include; Focus Group, Group Discussion, Group Interview, Group, Focus Group Interview, Focus Group Discussion, Qualitative Group Discussion and Nominal Group Interview.

Practical implications

The contribution of this paper is that it offers a resolution of this issue and so allows researchers from across geographic borders, different scientific traditions and from both academic and practitioner backgrounds to talk to one another in a common language.


This issue of differences in terminology for groups has largely been ignored by researchers and this paper hopes to bring some clarity and understanding of the key differences between focus group interviews and focus group discussions.



Boddy, C. (2005), "A rose by any other name may smell as sweet but “group discussion” is not another name for a “focus group” nor should it be", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 248-255.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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