focus group discussions

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.

The Focus Group Method: 18 Articles on Design & Moderating

“The Focus Group Method: 18 Articles on Design & Moderating” is a new compilationThe Focus Group Method that includes a selection of articles appearing in Research Design Review from 2010 to early 2020 concerning the focus group method. There are certainly many other articles in RDR that are relevant to the focus group method — such as those having to do with visual cues, e.g., Visual Cues & Bias in Qualitative Research, and analysis, e.g., Exploring the True Colors in Qualitative Data, and multiple methods, e.g., Working with Multiple Methods in Qualitative Research — however, the 18 selected articles were chosen for their specific application to the focus group method. It is hoped that this brief text will be useful to the student, the teacher, and the researcher who is interested in furthering their consideration of a quality approach to designing and conducting focus group discussions.

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

A similar compilation devoted to the in-depth interview method may be downloaded here.

Focus Groups: Moving to the Online Face-to-face Mode

There are many articles in Research Design Review about the focus group method. They range from broad discussions concerning the strengths and limitations of focus group discussions in qualitative research, to determining the number of groups to conduct for a particular study, to considerations Online synschronous focus groupwhen deciding on the heterogeneity or homogeneity of focus group participants, to matters of moderating such as the importance of gaining individual thinking in the group environment.

Most of these articles pertain to the in-person mode, where the moderator meets group participants at a local facility to discuss the research topic for 90 minutes to two hours. Alternatively, there are a variety of online solutions for the focus group method. One of the most popular are online asynchronous discussions (sometimes called “bulletin boards”) that take place over two to three or more days. As discussed in a brief 2018 article, there are a number of strengths and limitations to the online asynchronous mode, including the advantages of flexibility, geographic spread of participants, and potential for multi-media input; as well as limitations such as that having to do with the absence of visual cues, managing participant engagement, and conducting the analysis.

As I write this in mid-March 2020, many researchers are scrambling to find ways to re-design their in-person focus group research during the current coronavirus pandemic crisis. In doing so, these researchers are taking a close look at moving from in-person discussions to an online mode that allows for some semblance of in-person groups by way of face-to-face, real-time interaction, i.e., synchronous video conferencing. For some (if not, most) of these researchers, the online face-to-face mode is a new experience and, as such, researchers are uncertain on how to proceed on two key facets of the research design: 1) the online service or platform they should use and 2) best practices when conducting online synchronous group discussions for research purposes.

With respect to the online service or platform, the researcher needs to weigh the scope of the study (e.g., type of participant) as well as the depth and breadth of the discussion guide. While simple interfaces such as those provided by Zoom, Webex, or GoToMeeting may offer the video interface, the researcher needs to think about what they may or may not be giving up in terms of the quality of the discussion. For instance, dedicated online qualitative research platforms – such as itracks, 20/20 Research, Civicom, Discuss.io, and others – offer features and capabilities designed specifically for the demands of qualitative research. This includes the capacity to go beyond simple video conferencing (e.g., recording, screen sharing, and transcripts) by way of: recruiting participants; providing a community dashboard; aiding in question development; enabling in-discussion participant activity capabilities such as marking up images and creating collages; an observer “back room”; and various analytical functions such as image tagging as well as keyword and sentiment analysis.

In terms of best practices when conducting online synchronous discussions, here are a few resources:

“Considerations for and Lessons Learned from Online, Synchronous Focus Groups” (Forrestal, D’Angelo, and Vogel, 2015)

“Best Practices for Synchronous Online Focus Groups” (Lobe, 2017)

Online Moderator Training with Casey Sweet and Jeff Walkowski

Although there are clearly limitations to the online mode in qualitative research (as mentioned earlier), there are also times and extraordinary situations (such as the current pandemic) when it is the best approach. In these times, it is incumbent on the researcher to think carefully about maintaining the integrity of their research as they move to an online face-to-face mode, to reflect on what was lost and gained in this approach, and to be transparent in the reporting of this research.

Forrestal, S. G., D’Angelo, A. V., & Vogel, L. K. (2015). Considerations for and lessons learned from online, synchronous focus groups. Survey Practice, 8(2), 1-8.

Lobe, B. (2017). Best Practices for Synchronous Online Focus Groups. In A New Era in Focus Group Research (pp. 227-250). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Images captured from: https://pixabay.com/vectors/monitor-screen-computer-electronics-1143202/ and https://www.istockphoto.com/illustrations/cartoon-people?mediatype=illustration&phrase=cartoon%20people&sort=mostpopular