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Focus Groups in Small Communities

Preventing Chronic Disease
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Publication Date
  • Tools And Techniques


Qualitative research methods have gained increasing acceptance as valuable tools for gathering information on attitudes, beliefs, and sociocultural factors that influence health behaviors. Conducting focus groups is a commonly used qualitative method. Existing guidelines for conducting focus groups do not address the challenges presented by the social familiarity of small communities and do not highlight the advantages of using the technique as part of a community-based participatory research (CBPR) effort. In small communities, researchers must consider characteristics of the facilitator and recorder, recruitment strategies, the importance of stressing confidentiality even when discussing seemingly nonsensitive topics, and the effect of disseminating results. Addressing these elements as part of a CBPR approach is advantageous because community partners know the ways in which the community talks about an issue and understand the subtle social impact of asking, answering, and interpreting locally specific questions.

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