American Journal of Educational Research
ISSN (Print): 2327-6126 ISSN (Online): 2327-6150 Website: Editor-in-chief: Ratko Pavlović
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American Journal of Educational Research. 2014, 2(1), 6-12
DOI: 10.12691/education-2-1-2
Open AccessArticle

A Critical Overview of Designing and Conducting Focus Group Interviews in Applied Linguistics Research

Fawzi Al Ghazali1,

1Centre for Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, University of Salford, Manchester, UK

Pub. Date: January 06, 2014

Cite this paper:
Fawzi Al Ghazali. A Critical Overview of Designing and Conducting Focus Group Interviews in Applied Linguistics Research. American Journal of Educational Research. 2014; 2(1):6-12. doi: 10.12691/education-2-1-2


This paper explored the processes of carrying out, analysing, and reporting qualitative focus group interviews in research pertaining to applied linguistics and language-related disciplines. Interviews are normally used as retrospective tools to elaborate the responses of informants in quantitative surveys with no role for exploring new aspects of beliefs and attitudes that are not included in a survey. This paper hypothesises that interviews have different natures and they can be used as preliminary research tools for exploring new areas of students’ beliefs and linguistic background and meanwhile can assist in devising questionnaire items for subsequent wider use. This non-positivist perspective reduces the role of the researcher in directing the pathway of intended research and allows the informants the opportunity to be the primary sources that feed the questionnaire with their ideas. The research reported in this paper is a part of a large-scale study which investigates students’ beliefs about autonomy in learning English language. Focus group interviews are applied to understand aspects of autonomy as represented by students, and to feed a questionnaire with ample ideas for devising its items. This movement allows for investigating students’ beliefs from an emic view; that is from the insiders’ themselves. Summarising the key features of implementing focus group interviews, the significance of this paper resides in making the complex process of carrying out focus group interviews accessible to all researchers. Gradually, it shows how the principles and conventions of qualitative research are realised in applied linguistics. At a deeper level, it discusses how ethical and validity measures are maintained and the optimal ways of analysing the given data. This paper proposes that interviews can be used as an independent research tool as they represent different settings and can enhance research with new perspectives which a closed-ended questionnaire may not reveal.

learner autonomy students’ beliefs focus group interviews transcription thematic analysis

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