Focus groups, unlike some other forms of research, can feel quite informal. In fact, some of the best groups can look more like a table of friends chatting than a formal data collection effort. However, researchers always need to remember that focus groups (as well as one-on-one interviews and other qualitative methods) are research, and the same ethical requirements apply. If you’re working with a governmental agency or a university, you may need to have your project reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But even when your focus group effort does require these formal reviews, it is still important for researchers to remember their ethical responsibility to their participants.
The most fundamental ethical... more