Quality Standards

A Lesson in Guide Development: Part 2

“A Lesson in Guide Development: Part 1” discusses the importance of giving careful attention to the research objectives and related constructs when developing an in-depth interview (IDI) or focus group discussion guide. One of the useful ways to learn about guide development is to study the guides created by others.

In that spirit, “Part 1” provided a basic guide structure that was adapted from a published focus group research study. The reader was asked to think about “how, if at all, you would change the design of the questions and/or the order in which the questions are asked.” You might want to go back and look at the guide structure presented in “Part 1” before looking at the approach discussed below.

A significant concern with the guide outlined in “Part 1” is that it fails to prioritize gaining the necessary context that the moderator needs in order to effectively achieve the research objective — “To identify the barriers to purchasing & consuming fresh fish, and explore options for reducing these barriers.” The discussion begins with “Why do you eat fish?” But that is not what the moderator really wants to learn about at this early point in the discussion. What the moderator needs to learn about at the onset of the discussion is participants’ preferences in food along with their purchase and consumption behavior. It is only within this context that the moderator can fully understand and effectively question group participants pertaining to the research objective concerning fresh fish.

It is the four-stage funnel approach to guide development that enables the moderator to achieve the necessary context, from which the moderator can truly learn about the participants as it relates to the research objective. As a quality approach to guide development, the four-stage funnel design begins broadly and then increasingly narrows the focus of discussion to reach the key objective(s).

As an example, the guide structure presented in “Part 1” has been recreated using the four-stage funnel approach and is outlined below.

fish guide development-funnel approach

A Lesson in Guide Development: Part 1

Developing a guide for an in-depth interview (IDI) or focus group discussion requires careful consideration of the research objectives and the constructs under investigation. Many articles in Research Design Review discuss guide development, including Interview & Discussion Guide Development: A 4-Stage Funnel Approach” and “Guide Development & the Integrity of Qualitative Research Data.”

An important way to teach and learn best practices in guide development is to examine how other researchers have constructed their guides. Unfortunately, access to others’ IDI or focus group guides is limited due to the fact that many of the qualitative studies published in the literature do not include the guide used in the research.

One exception is a focus group study published a few years ago concerning the dietary behaviors among community residents. The primary questions asked in these discussions are included in the Appendix of the published article. These questions and the order in which they were asked (see below) offer a case for discussing quality guide development. For the sake anonymity, slight modifications have been made to the study details (i.e., “fish” replaces the actual food type under investigation and the segment of community residents who participated is not revealed).

Take a look at this basic guide structure (i.e., the primary questions minus the probing questions) and think about how, if at all, you would change the design of the questions and/or the order in which the questions are asked. As you do so, keep in mind the stated research objective. Part 2 of the discussion here in RDR will propose an alternative solution to this guide.

Guide Development Example


Focusing on a Research Design Reality: Questions Lead to Answers

Questions Lead to AnswersAt the core of research design development — in quantitative and qualitative methods — is the reality that individuals who have agreed to participate in our research studies generally answer the questions we ask. This fundamental reality places a heavy burden on the researcher developing a quality research design. Survey research that relies on closed-end questionnaire items is vulnerable to unreliable data due to question design that confuses respondents or fosters interpretations outside the true intention of the question asked. All of which leaves the researcher with weak data and consequently flawed analysis and erroneous final results. The need for more involved research designs that effectively investigate complex subject matter is discussed throughout Research Design Review, including in “Life Is Meaningful, Or Is It?: The Road To Meaning In Survey Data” and “Feelings & Sensations: Where Survey Designs Fail Badly.”

Ask a willing research respondent/participant a question and you are likely to get an answer. It may not be the question the researcher intended, it may confuse the responding individual, but the Read Full Text