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Methodology or “methodolatry”? An evaluation of focus groups and depth interviews

David Stokes (Small Business Research Centre, Business School, Kingston University, Kingston‐upon‐Thames, UK)
Richard Bergin (Stratelyst, Vancouver, Canada)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 1 January 2006



The aim of this research was to consider whether focus groups have justifiably become a more frequently used qualitative market research technique because of a superior research outcome. Although focus groups have extrinsic advantages such as speed and cost, there is evidence that individual depth interviews have intrinsic advantages relating to the quality of the research outcome.


A parallel research study was undertaken examining a single business issue using both focus groups and individual interviews. Results of both processes were analysed for relevance to the business issue. Follow up individual interviews with participants of the focus groups were undertaken to assess the validity of the data collected, and to investigate the nature of the processes in the groups.


Group processes appear to have had considerable influence on the consensus view expressed in focus groups, which may not be representative of respondents' individual views. Both the groups and the interviews identified the principle issues relating to buyer motivations and processes, target markets and branding. The groups were unable to match the depth and detail generated by individual interviews and to uncover subtleties in attitudes. The interviews offered less breadth of data and contextual information.

Practical implications

Whilst groups may be less expensive and faster in data collection, individual interviews demonstrated a superior ability to inform marketing strategy by uncovering important underlying issues.


The findings indicate that groups do not justify their predominance as a market research method in preference to interviews on the grounds of quality of outcomes alone.



Stokes, D. and Bergin, R. (2006), "Methodology or “methodolatry”? An evaluation of focus groups and depth interviews", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 26-37.



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