focus group discussions

Strengths of the Focus Group Method: An Overview

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 111-112).

Strengths

The unique advantage of the group discussion method is clearly the participant interaction and what it adds to (goes beyond) what might be learned from a series of in-depth interviews (IDIs). When conducted to achieve its full potential, the back-and-forth dialFocus groupsogue among the participants benefits the researcher (and the quality of the data) in several important respects:

  • A dynamic group discussion will often stimulate spontaneous ideas and personal disclosures that might otherwise go unstated in an IDI.
  • A relaxed, interactive, as well as a supportive (e.g., homogeneous) group environment can be conducive to discussing sensitive topics (e.g., a discussion of the immigration process among recent Chinese immigrants to the United States).
  • As participants exchange opinions, they consider their own views in relation to others’—which may encourage participants to refine their thoughts. In this way the group interaction gives the researcher insight into how people think about the topic(s) being studied and on what basis opinions may change. For example, in a focus group with college students who are considering various study-abroad programs, some participants might change their criteria for selecting one program over another after hearing other participants’ considerations. This discussion would help the researcher identify the important aspects of study-abroad programs that may impact students’ decision making.

Participant interaction, or the social aspect of focus group discussions, can be a particularly important advantage when conducting research with vulnerable and underserved population segments. For instance, women’s studies researchers such as Wilkinson (1999) believe that focus groups offer feminist psychologists an important research approach over other psychological research Read Full Text

Qualitative Analysis: ‘Thick Meaning’ by Preserving Each Lived Experience

My approach to qualitative data analysis has nothing to do with Post-it Notes, clipping excerpts from transcripts (digitally or with scissors), or otherwise breaking participants’ input (“data”) into bite-size pieces. My approach Thick meaningis the opposite of that. My goal is to gain an enriched understanding of each participant’s lived experience associated with the research questions and objectives and, from there, develop an informed contextually nuanced interpretation across participants. By way of deriving “thick meaning” within and across participants, I hope to provide the sponsor of the research with consequential and actionable outcomes.

I begin the analysis process immediately after completing the first in-depth interview (IDI) or focus group discussion by writing down (typically, in a spreadsheet) what I think I learned from each participant or group discussion pertaining to the key research questions and objectives as well as any new, unexpected yet relevant topic areas. I do this by referring to my in-session notes (for IDIs) and the IDI or group discussion audio recording. I then give thoughtful study and internalize each participant’s lived experience associated with the research questions and objectives which enables me to gain an understanding of the complexities of any one thought or idea while also respectfully preserving the integrity of the individual or group of individuals. “Preserving the integrity of the individual or group of individuals” is an important component of this approach which is grounded in the belief that researchers have a moral obligation to make a concerted effort to uphold each participant’s individuality to the extent possible in the analytical process.

At the completion of the final IDI or focus group discussion, I begin reflecting more heavily on what I learned from each participant Read Full Text

Reflexivity: 10 Articles on the Role of Reflection in Qualitative Research

Reflexivity in qualitative research“Reflexivity: 10 Articles on the Role of Reflection in Qualitative Research” is a new compilation of selected articles appearing in Research Design Review from 2012 to 2019 concerning the critical role of reflexivity in qualitative research data gathering & analysis. There are many other articles in RDR that discuss reflexivity and the reflexive journal, e.g., as one factor in mitigating bias within a particular method — such as “In-depth Interviewer Effects: Mitigating Interviewer Bias,” “Ethnography: Mitigating Observer Bias,” and “Narrative Research: Considerations in Gathering Quality Data” — and the role reflexivity plays in verification — such as “Verification: Looking Beyond the Data in Qualitative Data Analysis” — as well as transparency — such as “Transparent Qualitative Research: The Total Quality Framework Transparency Component” and “25 Ingredients to ‘Thicken’ Description & Enrich Transparency in Ethnography.”

However, in the articles chosen for this compilation, reflexivity plays the starring role and is central to the discussions of bias, “qualitative literacy,” gathering data in the field, and conducting research with the most vulnerable and marginalized populations.

“Reflexivity: 10 Articles on the Role of Reflection in Qualitative Research” is available for download here.

Four other recent compilations are also available for download:

“The Focus Group Method: 18 Articles on Design & Moderating is available for download here.

“The In-depth Interview Method: 12 Articles on Design & Implementation” is available for download here.

“Qualitative Data Analysis: 16 Articles on Process & Method” is available for download here.

“Qualitative Research: Transparency & Reporting” is available for download here.