research design

Limitations of In-person Focus Group Discussions

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 116-119).

The interactive, dynamic aspect of the focus group discussion method is its greatest potential strength as well as its greatest potential liability. This is especially the case in the face-to-face, in-person limitations of focus groupsmode where the close physical proximity of participants can unleash any number of factors that will threaten data quality if left unchecked.

One of the most important factors is the caliber of the discussion; specifically, the extent to which all participants have a fair chance of voicing their input. This is critical because the success of the group discussion method hinges on generating a true discussion where everyone present participates in a dialogue with the other group members and, to a lesser degree, with the moderator. A true participatory discussion, however, can be easily jeopardized in the social context of the in-person focus group (as well as the online synchronous discussion mode) because one or more participants either talk too much (i.e., dominate the discussion) or talk too little (i.e., are hesitant to express their views). In either case, the quality of the data will be compromised by the failure to capture the viewpoints of all participants, leading to erroneous interpretations of the outcomes.

The potentially negative impact that the face-to-face group interaction can have on data quality is an important consideration in qualitative research design, yet this impact—or, the effect of group interaction on the research—is often overlooked when conducting the analyses and reporting the outcomes. Researchers who have explored the role of interaction in focus group research include Grønkjær et al. (2011) and Moen, Antonov, Nilsson, and Ring (2010). Grønkjær et al. analyzed the “interactional events” in five focus groups they conducted with Danes on Read Full Text

Qualitative Analysis: The Biggest Obstacle to Enriching Survey Outcomes

Analysis is probably the biggest obstacle to the broader utilization of qualitative research methods.  Other aspects of qualitative research – such as data collection (which is discussed at length throughout Research Design Review as it relates to applying quality standards) – may require a certain degree of resources and Obstacledeliberation but are not difficult to achieve.  Obtaining a representative list of potential participants, for example, or honing the necessary skills to mitigate interviewer bias and gain cooperation from participants demand concentrated efforts on the part of the qualitative researcher but there are fairly straightforward, well-documented procedures to accomplish these goals.

Analysis, however, is difficult and it is the reason why many survey researchers are loath to incorporate a qualitative component – open-ended questions in a survey questionnaire or a Read Full Text

Applying a Quality Framework to the Focus Group Method