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Interpretive Political ScienceSelected Essays, Volume II$
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R. A. W. Rhodes

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198786115

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198786115.001.0001

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On Focus Groups

On Focus Groups

Chapter:
(p.81) 5 On Focus Groups
Source:
Interpretive Political Science
Author(s):

R. A. W. Rhodes

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198786115.003.0005

This chapter suggests that focus groups are a useful ethnographic tool in the study of governing elites. Focus groups provide an alternative way of ‘being there’ when the rules about secrecy and access prevent participant observation. The chapter describes the job of prime ministers’ chiefs of staff before explaining the research design, the preparations for the focus group sessions, and the strategies used to manage the dynamics of a diverse group that included former political enemies and factional rivals. It outlines the approach to analysis and interpretation before reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of focus groups for research into political and administrative elites. It concludes that focus groups are a valuable tool for making tacit knowledge explicit, but they must be located in a broader framework and be part of a larger toolkit.

Keywords:   administrative ethnography, focus groups, prime ministers, chiefs of staff, Australia, interpretive political science, executive studies, political elites, elite ethnography

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