Critical social research in information systems has been gaining prominence for some time and is
increasingly viewed as a valid research approach. One problem of the critical tradition is that there is
a lack of empirical research. A contributing factor to this gap in the literature is the lack of agreement
on what constitutes appropriate methodologies for critical research. The present paper contributes to
this debate by outlining the role that focus group research can play in the critical approach. The
paper outlines the main characteristics of critical research with an emphasis on its emancipatory
faculties. It then goes on to review the focus group method in general and gives an account of two
research projects that used focus groups as a method of data collection. It is argued that focus groups
can contribute to emancipation of researchers as well as respondents. This argument is built upon the
critical theories of the two most prominent theorists currently relied upon in critical social IS
research, namely Jürgen Habermas and Michel Foucault. Focus groups can improve communication
and move real discourses closer to the Habermas's ideas speech situation. At the same time, they can
contribute to the challenging of prevailing orthodoxy and thereby overcome established regimes of
truth in the Foucauldian tradition. The paper ends with a critical reflection of the shortcomings of
focus groups as a critical method and of the specific approach chosen in this paper.
Stahl, Bernard Carsten; Chiarini Tremblay, Monica; and LeRouge, Cindy, "Focus groups and critical social IS research: How the choice of method can promote emancipation of respondents and researchers" (2009). ECIS 2008 Proceedings. 2.