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Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Focus Groups  

Trends, Issues, and Debates

Andrew Parker and Jonathan Tritter

This chapter looks at focus groups, which grew out of both a therapeutic and marketing tradition and have been utilized by social scientists for many years. Their format constitutes a type of interview technique where six to twelve people are brought together and encouraged to discuss specific topics for 60–90 minutes in order that underlying issues might be explored. Focus groups are often used to investigate areas about which relatively little is known, and they are premised on face-to-face interactions between participants rather than direct responses to questions. More recently they have been adapted to online settings, particularly for hard-to-reach populations. Focus groups are valuable because they capture and harness group interaction to prompt fuller and deeper discussion and the triggering of new ideas. But in order for these dynamics to develop, it is vital that people’s stories are not already well known to each other.


Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Social Network Analysis  

The Significance of Relations

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan

This chapter studies Social Network Analysis (SNA), which is a methods toolbox for analysing the patterning of social ties and explaining how and why those patterns emerge and what consequences they have for social actors. Social networks are ubiquitous in the social world, either unfolding in face-to-face interactions or digitally. In recent decades, SNA has grown in popularity, appealing broadly to students interested in complex social structures. The recent availability of data based on digital traces of social relations (e.g. emails or social media profiles) has further prompted students to study these network structures. Analysing how actors are connected through other actors via paths may indicate how e.g. information or resources flow through the network via these ties.