Viewing Focus Groups Through a Critical Incident Lens

Christina M. Getrich, Anzia M. Bennett, Andrew L. Sussman, Angélica Solares, Deborah L. Helitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Scholars often do not describe in detail the complex process of conducting focus groups, including what happens when they take unexpected turns. A critical incident lens provides a framework for better analyzing and understanding what actually happens during focus group sessions. Using a critical incident approach, we examine our experiences of carrying out focus groups about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine with vaccine-eligible adolescent girls and parents/caregivers of vaccine-eligible adolescent girls in New Mexico. The critical incident lens allowed us to productively explore the context and interactional dynamics of our focus groups and ultimately pushed us to talk through the challenges of conducting and analyzing them. We hope this serves as a call to qualitative researchers to be attentive to the critical incidents in your own research to enrich your analysis and contribute to a broader discussion of the realities of focus group conduct.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)750-762
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer, screening and prevention
  • critical incident technique
  • focus groups
  • reflexivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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