Limitations of In-person Focus Group Discussions

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 116-119).

The interactive, dynamic aspect of the focus group discussion method is its greatest potential strength as well as its greatest potential liability. This is especially the case in the face-to-face, in-person limitations of focus groupsmode where the close physical proximity of participants can unleash any number of factors that will threaten data quality if left unchecked.

One of the most important factors is the caliber of the discussion; specifically, the extent to which all participants have a fair chance of voicing their input. This is critical because the success of the group discussion method hinges on generating a true discussion where everyone present participates in a dialogue with the other group members and, to a lesser degree, with the moderator. A true participatory discussion, however, can be easily jeopardized in the social context of the in-person focus group (as well as the online synchronous discussion mode) because one or more participants either talk too much (i.e., dominate the discussion) or talk too little (i.e., are hesitant to express their views). In either case, the quality of the data will be compromised by the failure to capture the viewpoints of all participants, leading to erroneous interpretations of the outcomes.

The potentially negative impact that the face-to-face group interaction can have on data quality is an important consideration in qualitative research design, yet this impact—or, the effect of group interaction on the research—is often overlooked when conducting the analyses and reporting the outcomes. Researchers who have explored the role of interaction in focus group research include Grønkjær et al. (2011) and Moen, Antonov, Nilsson, and Ring (2010). Grønkjær et al. analyzed the “interactional events” in five focus groups they conducted with Danes on Read Full Text

Distinguishing Between “Qualitative Information” & “Qualitative Research”

A qualitative study that utilizes interviews, group discussions, and/or observations is not necessarily a piece of research. There are many instances when reported exercises in qualitative gathering are labeled qualitative research Qualitative information vs. qualitative research when in fact the results may have provided interesting qualitative information but are not research findings that can be relied on to confidently guide hypotheses or next steps.

The distinction lies in the rigor of the design and implementation of the data gathering and analysis processes. Qualitative research (like all research) adheres to certain standards in the research protocol to maximize the integrity and ultimate usefulness of the data. Qualitative information, on the other hand, uses what appears to be similar methods but without the attention to basic research principles required to lay the foundation and support for the integrity of the outcomes.

As just one example, there was a study published in a peer-reviewed journal a few years back that reported on the use of focus group discussions and in-depth interviews to investigate primary care providers’ (PCPs’) perceptions and Read Full Text

Narrative Research: Considerations in Gathering Quality Data

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 317-318).

The in-depth interview method most often used in narrative research takeStorytellings the form of the unstructured interview where the interviewer is not so much equipped with a series of questions or topics as a reminder of the research objective and areas where clarification or words of encouragement may be particularly appropriate. In lieu of a formal interview guide, the interviewer may want to enlist certain aids. For instance, Elliott (2005) suggests using a “life history grid” (e.g., a spreadsheet with each row representing a specific year and the columns used to record life events) to facilitate biographical interviews when narrators may need some structure in which to place their life events, beyond an open-ended question such as “Tell me about your life.” A Total Quality Framework approach to narrative research fully supports the life history grid and other tools that may enable the narrative researcher to obtain more complete and accurate data that ultimately lead to more credible and useful outcomes.

Another important consideration when conducting narrative research, particularly in the in-person mode, is the very close relationship that is likely to develop between the interviewer and the storyteller. For this reason, Read Full Text