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Focus Groups

What is the focus group method

Focus group method is a form of group interview in which: there are

several participants; there is an emphasis in the questioning on a
particular fairly tightly defined topic; and the accent is upon
interaction within the group and the joint construction of meaning.
The focus group interview contains elements of two methods: the
group interview, in which several people discuss a number of topics;
and what has been a called a focus group interview, in which
interviewees are selected because they are known to have been
involved in a particular situation and asked about that involvement.
Focus group interview is a technique of interviewing that involves more
than one, usually four, interviewees. It is a group interview.
Focus group typically emphasize a specific theme or topic that is
explored in depth.
Focus group practitioner is interested in the ways in which individuals
discuss a certain issue as members of group, rather than simply
Most focus group researchers undertake their work within the traditions
of qualitative research.
The person who runs the focus group session is called the moderator or
facilitator and he or she will be expected to guide each session but not
to be too intrusive.
The original idea for the focus group the focused interview was that
people who were known to have had a certain experience could be
interviewed in a relatively unstructured way about that experience.
The technique allows the researcher to develop an understanding about
why people feel the way they do.
The focus group offers the researcher the opportunity to study the ways
in which individuals collectively make sense of a phenomenon and
construct meanings around it.
A major reason for conducting focus group research is the fact that it is
possible to study the processes whereby meaning is collectively
constructed within each session.
Conducting focus groups

Difficulty of writing down not only what people say but also who says it
Who expresses views within the group, such as whether certain
individuals seem to act as opinion leaders or dominate the discussion
Focus group practitioner interested in not just what people say but
how they say it- particular language they employ.
Transcribing focus group sessions is more complicated and more time
consuming than transcribing traditional interview recordings.
Number of groups could increase the complexity of your analysis.
Number of members per group (size of groups) should be less than 10.
Some say it should be 6-10.
Moderator involvement -Researcher needs to use small number of very general
questions to guide the focus group session.
Session begins with an introduction to the research, introduce moderator,
participants, introduce conventions (one person should speak), ethics, thank
groups members for participation etc.
Who can participate- anyone for whom the topic is relevant can logically be an
appropriate participant.
Exclude people who know each other? Or include them
Researcher driven recruitment, key informant recruitment or spontaneous
Asking questions-who has heart attacks and why? What causes and prevents
heart attacks (examples for general questions)
Show a film and ask general and specific questions
What do you want from a job?
What is important when you look for a job?
Do you think it is important to support your self?
How do you expect to do that? (job/state/spouse)
Do you think it is different for women and men of your age?
Do you expect to be in paid employment in five years time/ten years

The researcher has less control over proceedings than with the
individual interview.
The data are difficult to analyze.
Difficult to organize.
Recordings are more time consuming to transcribe than in equivalent
Differences between structured interview and the qualitative
The approach tends to be less structured in qualitative research
In qualitative interviewing, there is much greater interest in the
interviewees point of view
Qualitative interview is flexible
In qualitative interviewing, the researcher wants rich, detailed
In qualitative interviewing, the interviewee may be interviewed on
more than one and sometimes even several occasions
Unstructured interview avoids interview schedules conducts
interviews very much in conversational in style. Normally tape
record all interviews.
Preparing interview guide

Create certain amount of order on the topic areas

Do not ask leading questions
Practical details-
- Make sure you are familiar with the setting in which the interviewee
works and lives
- Be a good listener
- Interview needs to conduct in a quiet place
- Better to conduct a pilot test
After the interview makes notes about
- How the interview went
- Where the interview took place
- Any other feeling about the interview (did it open up new
information, theme etc.)
- The setting (busy, quiet, many, few people etc.)
Kinds of qualitative questions
Introducing questions: please tell me about, have you ever, why did
you go to
Follow up questions getting the interviewee to elaborate his or her
answer, such as what di you mean by
Probing questions following up what has been said, could you say
some more about that, in what ways do you find X disturbing
Specifying questions what did you do then? How did x react to what
you said?
Direct questions do you find it easy to keep smiling when serving
indirect questions what do most people round here think of the
ways the management treats its staff?
Structuring questions: I would now like to move on to a different topic
Silence: allow pauses to signal that you want to give the interviewee
the opportunity to reflect and amplify an answer.
Interpreting questions: do you mean that your leadership role has
had to change from one of encouraging others to a more directive
You will hear different kinds of things such as values, beliefs, behavior,
formal and informal roles, relationships, places and locales, emotions,
stories and encounters.
Telephone interviewing is quite common in survey research and it has
not been used in great deal in qualitative research.
Life history

A life history interview invites the subject to look back in detail across
his/her entire life course. It has been depicted as documenting the
inner experience of individuals, how they interpret, understand and
define the world around them. This is a unstructured interview that
cover the totality of individuals life.
Case Study Design

What is a case?
Case associates with the case study of location, such as community
or an organization
Case study researchers tend to argue that they aim to generate an
intensive examination of a single case in relation to which they then
engage in a theoretical analysis.

Case study research frequently includes a longitudinal element.

Researcher may conduct interviews with individuals over a lengthy
Qualitative researchers often struggle with the questions of what
my case is and where my case leaves off. The case should be your
unit of analysis.
What are some examples of cases? Sometimes the phenomenon
may be an individual in a defined context.
A case may also be defined by

A role (school principal, CEO, nurse, supervisor)

A small group ( a breast cancer survivor support group, a college level rock band)
An organization (nursery school, computer chip manufacturing company)
A community or settlement
An event (high school graduation ceremony)
A period of time (spring break, how customers use their time between ordering
food from a server and having it delivered to their table)
A process
A culture or sub-culture
Research strategy and research design

Research Design Research Strategy

Quantitative Qualitative

Experimental Most researchers use quantitative Quasi experimental research design

comparisons between experimental and qualitative data can be collected.
control groups with regard to the
dependent variable.

Cross-sectional Survey research or structured Qualitative interviews or focus group

observation on a sample at a single point interviews at a single point in time.
in time.
Longitudinal Survey research on a sample on more Ethnographic research over a long
than one occasion as in panel or cohort period, qualitative interviews on more
studies. than one occasion or qualitative content
analysis of documents relating to
different time periods.
Case study Survey research on a single case with a Intensive study by ethnography or
view to revealing important features qualitative interviewing of a single case
about its nature. which may be an organization, life,
family or community.