Mode Differences in Focus Group Discussions

TQF Image

There are four components to the Total Quality Framework in qualitative research design.  The first component, Credibility, has to do with data collection; specifically, the completeness and accuracy of the data collected.  There are two critical facets to Credibility – Scope (coverage and representation) and Data Gathering (bias, nonresponse, and how well [or not] particular constructs are measured).

The second component is Analyzability.  This component is concerned with the completeness and accuracy of the analyses and interpretations.  The Analyzability component is concerned with Processing (e.g., the use of transcriptions, coding) and Verification (e.g., by way of triangulation, deviant cases, and/or a reflexive journal).

By looking at just these two components of the TQF, what judgments can we make as to the strengths and limitations of the various modes we might choose from for any given method?  For example, three of the most common modes for focus group discussions are: face-to-face, phone, and online (asynchronous).  Each of these modes has implications related to data collection and analysis.  The tables (below) present a few of these considerations.  With respect to “strengths,” for instance, the face-to-face mode has the advantage of facilitating rapport building as well as data verification by way of observers.  The phone mode, on the other hand, extends the coverage (which can be particularly important in conducting research with hard-to-reach segments); while the asynchronous online mode typically results in lengthy, detailed responses that are conveniently and immediately available in transcription form.

FG Modes-Strengths

There are also certain limitations of these modes related to data collection and analysis.  Coverage, for instance, can be a problem and fewer groups may be possible due to scant resources when attempting to conduct face-to-face focus groups, and the absence of visual cues (when no photos or video are used) hamper the analysis of phone and online discussions.

FG Modes-Limitations

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