Fundamental to the design of a focus group study is group composition. Specifically, the researcher must determine the degree of homogeneity or heterogeneity that should be represented by the group participants. As shown below, there are many questions the researcher needs to contemplate, such as the extent of similarity or dissimilarity in participants’ demographic characteristics, as well as in their experiences and involvement with the subject matter.
Questions When Considering Heterogeneity vs. Homogeneity
A few of the questions the focus group researcher might consider when determining the desired heterogeneity or homogeneity among group participants include:
Should participants be in the same age range and/or stage of life?
Should participants be the same gender, race, and/or ethnicity?
Should participants be at a similar income, socio-economic, or educational level?
Should participants reside in the same community, be members of the same organization(s)?
Should participants have similar professions or jobs (including, job titles)?
Should participants have a similar involvement, experience, or knowledge with the research topic, e.g., the same types of problems with their 13 year old boys? the same healthcare service provider? the same purchase behavior? the same level of expertise with a new technology?
Whether or not—or the degree to which—group participants should be homogeneous in some or all characteristics has been at the center of debate for some years. On the one hand, Grønkjær, Curtis, Crespigny, and Delmar (2011) claim that at least some “homogeneity in focus group construction is considered essential for group interaction and dynamics” (p. 23)—for example, participants belonging to the same age group may have similar frames of reference and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with people who have lived through the same experience. In the same vein, Read Full Text
Research Design Review is a blog first published in November 2009. RDR currently consists of more than 220 articles and has 650+ subscribers along with nearly 780,000 views. As in recent years, many of the articles published in 2019 centered on qualitative research. This paper — “Qualitative Research: Analysis” — represents a compilation of four of these articles pertaining to qualitative research analysis.
These articles cover a range of topics including: considerations when defining the unit of analysis; a discussion on handling “gaps” in the data; a cautionary perspective on coding, i.e., reminding researchers that an overemphasis on coding may miss the true intention of qualitative data analysis; and a look at a Total Quality Framework approach to the qualitative content analysis method.
A separate paper consisting of 14 2019 RDR articles on design and methods can be found here.
Research Design Review is a blog first published in November 2009. RDR currently consists of more than 220 articles and has 650+ subscribers along with nearly 780,000 views. As in recent years, many of the articles published in 2019 centered on qualitative research. This paper — “Qualitative Research: Design & Methods” — represents a compilation of 14 of these articles pertaining to qualitative research design (4 articles) and various methods (10 articles).
The articles on qualitative research design touch on basic yet important considerations when choosing a qualitative approach; specifically, the critical thinking skills required of the researcher to integrate quality principles in the research design, effectively derive meaning from the human experience, and understand the important role of reflexivity. The 10 articles on research methods covers focus group discussions (e.g., building rapport, the asynchronous mode), in-depth interviews (e.g., strengths and limitations, mitigating interviewer bias), case-centered and narrative research (e.g., a case study exploring communication with educators among working-class Latino parents in urban Los Angeles), and an ethnographic case study.