n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - : my experiences in using focus groups for criminological research

Special Edition 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



During 2005 / 2006 the researcher, as part of her Master of Social Sciences degree, conducted a study in order to "investigate and experience the use of focus group interviews as a technique of data collection in qualitative research in the study field of Criminology". As a practical application of the use of focus groups, student opinions on the nature and amount of violence on television; on the influence of specific television programmes on their own and others' behaviour, attitudes and beliefs; on the adequacy of broadcasting control and parental control with respect to the viewing of violent and criminal television programmes; and on which kind of violent television programme clips might have the greatest influence upon the opinions of these participants were explored. In order to achieve this, the opinions, regarding violence on television, op undergraduate and postgraduate students of the University of the Free State, irrespective of gender, age, race, and language, as well as the impact of certain violent television programme clips upon the opinions of these students, were focused upon. It was found that most views offered by the participants corresponded to those already mentioned by previous researchers and theorists, for example that televised violence and crime can lead to general feelings of fear and trepidation. More importantly, through the various methodological achievements and failures that were experienced whilst conducting the focus groups, the researcher became aware of the various advantages and limitations with respect to using focus groups for criminological research, e.g. very little cost was involved in setting up this study, and direct contact with the participants were achieved, but, on the other hand, difficulty was experienced in assembling the different groups and in keeping certain participants from either offering too many or too few opinions. Even though the researcher was trained in interviewing techniques and had ample theoretical knowledge, the researcher quickly found that she was a mere amateur with reference to the knowledge and the implementation of focus groups. However, even though the researcher failed to achieve a 'perfect' methodology whilst conducting the research, and could have benefited from more specific and less hasty preparation and practical training in the conducting of focus group interviews, relevant opinions and information could still be found on the topic. In this article the researcher shares some of her personal, subjective experiences regarding various aspects of the focus group interviews, namely : how the various groups were conceived and conducted; what advantages for research and achievements did the researcher experience whilst conducting the focus groups; what negative aspects could be identified; whether these negative aspects were experienced only due to the researcher's insufficient preparation and faults; and whether the use of focus groups can truly be beneficial for Criminological research. The researcher believes that if one does not actually go out and try to do something in a practical manner, how else will you truly gain experience? Hopefully, though practice gained, the researcher and others can benefit from focus groups interviews. This article outlines the researcher's experiences in collecting research information from these focus group interviews and postulates some advice for young researchers undertaking focus group interviews for the first time.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error