Focus Groups

Focus group presentation

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Focus Groups by Mind Map: Focus Groups

1. Try This Exercise

1.1. Here are several situations when you might want to know more about community opinions before taking action. How useful would focus group be in each case?

1.1.1. A new strain of flu is going around. Half the town seems to be catching it. What should be done about it?

1.1.1.1. Controlling the flu is not a matter of citizen opinion, but rather of medical facts, and of public health prevention and treatment. A focus group is probably not helpful here

1.1.2. A wave of break-ins has hit a nearby neighborhood. How can this be stopped?

1.1.2.1. Increased police presence may help; but a structured discussion among neighbors might hit upon other useful solutions. A focus group could be quite worthwhile

1.1.3. A new playground is being planned. What features should go into it?

1.1.3.1. Citizen input is definitely called for here. A focus group could be an ideal way of finding it out

2. Conducting a Focus Group

2.1. Determine your purpose for conducting the focus group

2.1.1. These questions can be helpful in clarifying your purpose: What do I want to know? Why do I want to know it? What answers might I expect? What will I do with these answers to improve the program?

2.2. Select a sample population

2.2.1. The deal size of a focus group is 6-12 subjects. A facilitator and note-taker or someone to video tape the session/s.

2.2.2. A larger group will limit the detail of some responses as participants may feel pressure to share airtime with others

2.2.3. Participants in a smaller group may feel an uncomfortable pressure to talk more than they would otherwise to fill dead air.

2.2.4. Nomination, Random Selection, All Members of The Same Group- already existing group, Same role/job title - all nurses, teachers etc. and Volunteers

2.3. The Setting

2.3.1. This could be a comfortable room; a quiet lounge with comfortable furniture as opposes to a brightly lit classroom or noisy space. The emphasis is on "comfortable"

2.4. Construct questions that gather information relevant to your purpose

2.4.1. Engagement Questions: Introduce participants to and make them comfortable with the topic of discussion

2.4.2. Exploratory Questions: get to the heart of the discussion ( How do you feel about .....)

2.4.3. Exit Questions:check to see if anything was missed in the discussion (Is there anything else you would like to say about .....)

2.5. Best Practices

2.5.1. Two researchers should conduct the focus group, one to lead the discussion and the other to primarily take notes

2.5.2. The discussion leader should begin by explaining the purpose and format of the focus group as well as noting methods of analysis (direct quotations, coding responses etc.) and confidentiality practices appropriate to your study

2.5.3. Useful to begin the focus group with a structured activity that requires participants to do small group work or individual writing in order to become engaged

2.5.3.1. Write down strength and weaknesses about the topic, rank in order of importance

2.5.3.2. Magazine or pictures have participants choose two, one that shows the current state of the program and one that shows how it should be. Small group discussions would follow

3. Analyzing the Data

3.1. This involves the development and assignment of themes and categories and looking for patterns and contrasts in the data. The process includes data reduction and interpretation of meaning

3.1.1. Transcript -based Analysis - the entire interview is transcribed. This establishes a permanent written record of the group discussion

3.1.1.1. Tape-based Analysis - the researcher listens to the tape of the focus group and creates an abridged transcript that focus only on the research questions to better understand tht phenomenon

3.1.1.1.1. Nonverbal communication, gestures and behavioral responses will not be reflected in a transcript. The researcher may supplement the transcript with additional observational data obtained during the interview

3.2. Qualitative Data Analysis Techniques

3.2.1. Constant Comparison Analysis - Three major stages 1. open coding - the data is chunked into small units and a descriptor or code is attached to each unit 2. axial coding - these codes are grouped into categories 3. selective/focused coding - researcher develops one or more themes that express the content of each of the groups.

3.2.2. Classical Content Analysis - create smaller chunks of the data and the placing a code with each chunk. However instead of creating themes these codes are placed into smaller groupings and counted ( the frequency of the code and also a rich description of the code)

3.2.3. Keywords-in-context Analysis - determines how words that are central to the development of themes and theory are used in context with other words. People use the same words differently and the context within which words are used are important in focus groups because of the interactive nature groups.

3.2.4. Discourse Analysis - selecting representative or unique segments or components of language use, for e.g. several lines of a focus group discourse, and then analyzing them in detail to examine how versions of elements such as society, community, experiences, institutions and events emerge in the discourse.

3.2.5. There are computer software programs available to assist with coding and analyzing data, such as, Ethnograph, Atlas ti, and QSR N6.

3.3. Quality

3.4. Reliability (consistency of findings) and Validity (accuracy of information) are important factors to consider in the process of data analysis.

3.4.1. Coding Teams - researchers code the same data and discuss their findings. Similarities and differences between results are discussed

3.4.2. Participant Validation - researchers take findings and analysis back to the participants and ask them to review the work and provide feedback

4. Usefulness and Limitations of Focus Groups

4.1. PROS - Group dialogue can generate rich information. As participants interact and they can "trigger the sharing of others" personal experiences and perspectives.

4.1.1. Provides information directly from individuals who are invested in the issue or hold expert knowledge about a topic of which little is know among researchers. Provides information from people who can provide insights about actual conditions and situations

4.1.1.1. Provides a representation of diverse opinions and ideas

4.1.1.1.1. Provides a relatively low cost and efficient way to generate a great deal of information

4.2. CONS - Focus groups are susceptible to facilitator bias which can undermine the validity and reliability of findings

4.2.1. Discussions can be sidetracked or dominated by a few vocal individuals

4.2.1.1. Focus groups generate important information. However, such information often has limited generalizability to a whole population

5. Background

5.1. Researchers have been using focus groups for the past (80) eighty years

5.1.1. Emerged in the 1940’s when they were first used by Paul Lazarsfeld, Robert Merton and colleagues at the Bureau of Applied Social Research in Columbia University to test the reactions to propaganda and radio broadcast during World War II

5.1.2. Two dimensions of Lazarsfeld and Merton’s research constitute part of the legacy of using focus groups within qualitative research

5.1.2.1. (1) capturing people’s responses in real space and time in the context of face-to-face interactions

5.1.2.2. (2) strategically ‘focusing’ interview prompts based on themes that are generated in these face-to-face interactions and that are considered particularly important to the research.

5.1.3. Origins in the Social Sciences

6. Definition

6.1. Focus group research is “a way of collecting qualitative data, which essentially involves engaging a small number of people in an informal group discussion or discussions ‘focused’ around a particular topic or set of issues” (Wilkinson, 2004, p. 177).

6.2. Focus groups are structured and directed, but also expressive, they can yield a lot of information in a relatively short period of time

6.3. Focus groups gets closer to what people are thinking and feeling because responses in a focus group are typically spoken, open-ended, relatively broad and qualitative. They also have more depth and variety. Also non-verbal communications and group interactions can also be observed.

6.4. Focus groups are less threatening to many research participants and this environment is conducive for participants to discuss perceptions, ideas, opinions, and thoughts without being judged or ridiculed by others in the group

6.5. The primary aim of a focus group is to describe and understand meanings and interpretations of a select group of people to gain an understanding of a specific issue from the perspective of the participants of the group (Liamputtong, 2009).

7. When Should You Use a Focus Group?

7.1. When you are considering the introduction of a new program or service

7.2. When your main concern is with depth of opinion, or shading of opinion, rather than simply with whether people agree or disagree

7.3. When you ask questions that can't easily be asked or answered on a written survey

7.4. When you want to supplement the knowledge you can gain from written surveys

7.5. When you know or can find someone who is an experienced group leader/moderator

7.6. When you have the time, knowledge and resources to recruit a willing group of focus group participants