While I was doing my peer review assignment (I choose to critique MacMillan's "Soap Box" study) I came across a really great section of a book, Berg's Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. In this section, Berg discusses focus groups in great detail. According to Knight, focus groups are primarily useful for their cost and time-cutting measures. Knight's section on focus groups is very small and he insinuates that focus groups are for lazy researchers. They apparently cannot generate valid data on their own and are used as a sort of preliminary research. Berg, however, had a completely different perspective on the matter. He believes that focus groups allow the researcher to fade more into the background and said that participants sometimes feel more comfortable sharing their views in a group setting as opposed to one-on-one. He also said that a group has the ability to generate findings that cannot be generated by an individual.
My background is sociology and I also took several psychology courses. The whole principle of sociology is based on the fact that society and groups of people need to be studied as a whole rather than as the sum of individuals. I was definitely happy to see that some methods specialists do no simply brush off the importance of groups and group interviews.