Quick Questions—On Focus(ed) Groups

Question: I am a bit confused about terminology. Should it be ‘focus group’ or ‘focused group’?  For example, if I am writing the sentence, ‘The chairman is thinking of setting up focus/focused group meetings to collect stakeholders’ views’, should I use focus or focused? Or it doesn’t matter? Thanks! —

Response: Hi —!  Although it seems to make perfect sense that one would refer to a group of people focused on a particular topic as a “focused group,” I have only ever heard it said “focus group.”

When I checked online for instances of the word “focused group,” I found a few, but they all seemed to be referring just to focused people, for example, a group of focused scientists working. “Focus group” on the other hand, generated single dictionary entries meaning roughly what you were talking about as far as collecting people’s views on things. Based on some cursory linguistics knowledge, I can tell you that  it means that unlike “focused group” which is an adjective (focused) describing a noun (group), “focus group,” as a whole, is functioning as one distinct noun.

I hope this helps. I probably could have just said, “focus group,” but words are so strange, and interesting!

Feel free to send in any other questions you have, or meet face-to-face if you’d ever like to work on starting or improving a piece of writing.

Virtually every day tutors at the writing center respond to “Quick Questions” asked by writers from the DePaul community. We will start posting on our blog the questions we receive along with the answers our tutors craft in response. Of course, the personal information of each questioner will be redacted. We hope you enjoy this new resource… you just might discover the answer to a question you have always wanted (or never thought) to ask!

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Joe O. says:

    Sometimes when I’m not about terminology, I use Google Fight. Google Fight allows you to compare the number of results for two different words or phrases (be sure to use quotes if you are comparing phrases). So the results for “focus group” vs “focused group” in Google Fight are 319,000 results for “focus group” and 16,300 results for “focused group.” We have a winner!