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Focus Groups

Contents

[edit] Definition

"A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members".[1]

Our Definition A community in which gets together to talk about their perceptions, opinions, issues, and attitudes towards the community in which they live in.

[edit] Types of Focus Groups

Two-way focus group - one focus group watches another focus group and discusses the observed interactions and conclusion

Dual moderator focus group - one moderator ensures the session progresses smoothly, while another ensures that all the topics are covered

Dueling moderator focus group - two moderators deliberately take opposite sides on the issue under discussion

Respondent moderator focus group - one and only one of the respondents are asked to act as the moderator temporarily

Client participant focus groups - one or more client representatives participate in the discussion, either covertly or overtly

Mini focus groups - groups are composed of four or five members rather than 6 to 12

Teleconference focus groups - telephone network is used

Online focus groups - computers connected via the internet are used

Copied directly from Morgan,1998 A Focus Group Guide Book

[edit] History of Focus Groups

Early Works The earliest work was carried out primary by the social sciences. Emory Bogardus and Walter Thurstone used various interviews to survey people to find out about their social lives [2].

During WWII (1970’s)

Focus groups were used for marketing schemes[3]. Robert K. Merton and Paul Lazarsfeldstarted the group interviews for the development of propaganda materials at the home front [4]. They manipulated people into working the home front during the war [5]. Their first focus group went quite well although the questions were quite leading. The term focus groups itself was coined by psychologist and marketing expert Ernest Dichter [6].

Present Day

Focus groups are used for qualitative research and marketing tools. Focus groups are also used as a meeting style to get through the material in an orderly fashion.

[edit] Theory Behind It

Focus groups are a way of listening to people and learning from them. It is used as a communication line from the moderator to the participant and participant to participant. It is not a passive process it is the desire is to listen and learn. It is your responsibility as a moderator to decide what is relevant and irrelevant. “It is YOUR focus, but it is THEIR group"[7]

Community Reasons of using a Focus Group

Focus group are great to use in a community setting because it can help address the communities concerns in a organized meeting style. Focus groups also relate to different social groups and develops the communities research

[edit] When Should it Be Used

Focus groups can be used in marketing, usability engineering, and social sciences and urban planning. Urban planning focuses on obtaining feedback regarding new products and various topics about what the consumers want. In usability engineering focus groups are used to collect views on a software or website. Social sciences and Urban planning focus groups allow the individuals conducting the focus groups to interview the participants in the study in a more natural setting rather than a one-to-one interview. Social sciences and urban planning is the one most commonly used for community development processes. It allows the researchers to gain access on various cultures and social groups to determine what they want. [8][9][10]

Three Examples in Community/Group settings:[11][12][13]

1. A Community-Based Hip-Hop Dance Program for Youth in a Disadvantaged Community in Ottawa: Implementation Findings

2. Community participation in riverfront development.

3. Evaluating an online occupational therapy community of practice and its role in supporting occupational therapy practice.

These three examples used focus groups in a community setting to understand ways of improvement in the example of Hip-hop and Development and to gather information for Occupational Therapy. Each one of the different examples focuses in on the different areas of Recreation and Leisure Studies (Community, Outdoor, and Inclusive and Therapeutic Recreation)


How to plan: Invite around 8-12 people to participate in a focus group on a topic they are usually interested in. Prepare a topic you wish to investigate further. This can include issues of consent and fire regulations (if relevant). Ensure that the focus group takes place in a quiet room with few distractions and arrange people in a circle around a table.


Preparing and Planning for the Session: Identify the major objective of the meeting. Determine five to six questions you wish to address. Contact potential members to invite them to the meeting. Send them a follow-up invitation with a proposed agenda, session time and list of questions the group will discuss. Plan to provide a copy of the report from the session to each member and let them know you will do this. Approximately 3 days before the focus group send each member a message to remind them to attend.


Schedule the meeting to be about an hour long. Hold sessions in a conference room, or other setting with adequate air flow and lighting and away from any potential distractions. Set up chairs so that all members can see each other. Provide name tags for members. Prepare an agenda to keep the group on track and focused on what is being discussed. Select members who are likely to be actively participative, attempt to select members who don't know each other. Plan to record the session with either an audio or audio-video recorder.


How to Run: Ask the participants to introduce themselves and/or wear name tags. Most importantly, all questions you ask should be open and neutral. It's also important for the moderator to be aware of participants' energy and concentration levels and provide short breaks if necessary. The moderator should encourage free-flowing discussion around the relevant issue(s). Focus groups should end with the moderator winding-up the session by stressing all that has achieved and casting it in a positive light.


Facilitating the Session Ensure that all members participate as much as possible, yet the session move along while generating useful information. Major goal of facilitation is collecting useful information to meet goal of meeting. Introduce yourself and the co-facilitator, if used. Explain the means to record the session. Carry out the agenda by carefully wording each question before that question is addressed by the group. Allow the group a few minutes for each member to carefully record their answers. Then, facilitate discussion around the answers to each question, one at a time. After each question is answered, carefully reflect back a summary of what you heard. Ensure even participation. In order to close the session tell members that they will receive a copy of the report generated from their answers, thank them for coming, and adjourn the meeting.


Immediately After Session Verify if the tape recorder (if used) worked throughout the session. Make any notes on your written notes, e.g., to clarify any scratching, ensure pages are numbered, fill out any notes that don't make senses. Write down any observations made during the session. For example, where did the session occur and when, what was the nature of participation in the group? Were there any surprises during the session? Did the tape recorder break?


How to Implement a Focus Group


Implementation Strategies: - Prepared Questions before hand - Have one or two people facilitating rather then 5 (or at the time 6) facilitating - Have people who are engaged in the topic of focus and not there because they had to be there

[edit] Videos

Cell Phones:

Commercial:

Mountain Dew:

Dodge Caliber:

Starbucks:

Phone:


[edit] Strengths to Focus Groups

1. Focus groups provide data from a group of people much more quickly and often at less cost than would be the case if each individual were interviewed separately. They can also be assembled on much shorter notice than would be required for a more systematic and larger survey. In marketing studies, focus group data analysis often begins immediately after a session ends, yielding preliminary findings quickly [14]

2. Focus groups allow the researcher to interact directly with respondents. This provides opportunities for the clarification of responses, for following-up questions, and for the probing of responses. Respondents can qualify responses or give contingent answers to questions. In addition, it is possible for the researcher to observe nonverbal responses such as gestures, smiles, frowns, and so forth, which may carry information that supplements and on occasion even contradicts the verbal response [15]

3. The open response format of a focus group provides an opportunity to obtain large and rich amounts of data in the respondents’ own words. The researcher can obtain deeper levels of meaning, make important connections, and identify subtle nuances in expression and meaning[16]

4. Focus groups allow respondents to react to and build on the responses of other group members. This synergistic effect of the group setting may result in the production of data or ideas that might not have been uncovered in individual interviews. Differences of opinion among group members also help researchers identify how and why individuals embrace or reject particular ideas, communications, or products [17]

5. Focus groups are very flexible. They can be used to examine a wide range of topics with a variety of individuals and in a variety of settings[18]

6. Focus groups may be one of the few research tools available for obtaining data from children or from individuals who are not particularly literate[19]

7. The results of a focus group are extremely user friendly and easy to understand. Researchers and decision makers can readily understand the verbal responses of most respondents. This is not always the case with more sophisticated survey research that employs complex statistical analysts [20]


Tapping into such interpersonal communication is also important because this can highlight (sub) cultural values or group norms. Through analyzing the operation of humour, consensus, and dissent and examining different types of narrative used within the group, the researcher can identify shared and common knowledge. This makes focus groups a data collection technique particularly sensitive to cultural variables—which is why it is so often used in cross cultural research and work with ethnic minorities. It also makes them useful in studies examining why different sections of the population make differential use of health services. For similar reasons focus groups are useful for studying dominant cultural values (for example, exposing dominant narratives about sexuality) and for examining work place cultures—the ways in which, for example, staff cope with working with terminally ill patients or deal with the stresses of an accident and emergency department. [21]


-Another benefit is that focus groups elicit information in a way which allows researchers to find out why an issue is salient, as well as what is salient about it (Morgan 1988). As a result, the gap between what people say and what they do can be better understood (Lankshear 1993). If multiple understandings and meanings are revealed by participants, multiple explanations of their behaviour and attitudes will be more readily articulated.The benefits to participants of focus group research should not be underestimated. The opportunity to be involved in decision making processes (Race et al 1994), to be valued as experts, and to be given the chance to work collaboratively with researchers (Goss & Leinbach 1996) can be empowering for many participants. If a group works well, trust develops and the group may explore solutions to a particular problem as a unit (Kitzinger 1995), rather than as individuals.

-The strengths of relying on the researcher’s focus is the ability to produce concentrated amounts of data on precisely the topic of interest. This strength was clear in comparison to participant observation because focus groups not only five access to the reports on a wide range of topics that may not be observable but also ensure that the data will be directly targeted to the researcher’s interests. This strength is one source of focus groups’ reputation for being 'quick and easy'.[22]

A focus group is especially useful when[23]:

  1. Existing knowledge of a subject is inadequate and elaboration of pertinent issues or the generation of new hypotheses is necessary before a relevant and valid questionnaire can be constructed or an existing one enhanced
  2. A the subject under investigation is complex and concurrent use of additional data collection methods is required to ensure validity
  3. The subject under investigation is complex and comprises a number of variables. A focus group enables the researcher to concentrate time and resources on the study's most pertinent variables
  4. The results of a quantitative survey are ambiguous or misleading and statistical associations require clarification, elaboration or "salvaging". In this respect, a focus group can be employed prior to, concurrently with, or after a quantitative study, or separately to explore complex phenomena not amenable to qualitative research.

[edit] The Limitations of Focus Groups

Limitations can arise when conducting a focus group for a variety of reasons.

-Strong opinions and like wise opinionated individuals often overshadow the opinions of others.[24]

-Individuals participating in focus groups should not have pre-existing relationships; they should not know each other as this can affect their willingness to share their thoughts and opinions in some cases.[25]

-Individual interaction is also beneficial to obtain participant perspective which may not occur in focus group settings due to numbers of participants or participant comfort levels[26]

-Naturally occurring groups (employees at the same company) or those gathered together specifically for the focus group study each pose unique challenges as you cannot predict participant actions, similarly the quality of information retrieved is dependent of participant behavior.[27]

-Confidentiality is difficult to maintain due to the open discussion format and the fact that videotaping the focus group is the most effective way to document the information collected.The focus group is a verbal discussion and can limit or affect participation for individuals with speech or hearing impairments/barriers.[28]

-Focus group studies provide a large amount of information which in turn must be carefully documented and transcribed which is time consuming for the researcher.Participants must be carefully chosen to obtain suitable information e.g. women focus group for high heels [29]

[edit] Tips for implementing a Focus Group

When implementing a focus group it is important to have consent from the participants whether it is verbal or a signed document. Have a game plan organized of what you are going to ask and define your goals prior to the focus group so that you stay on topic. It is helpful if the questions address all the basics of who what where when and why this way the questions are clear and concise [30] Have a smaller group so that you can gain more knowledge of the participants experiences [31].Try and peel back the layers and get truthful answers while doing this is happening you are encouraging participation because the participants are becoming more relaxed with the subject and with the setting. After asking the question leave time and think about the answers, if you pause and think about the answers it gives you the option to probe for more answers. Have a way of recording the focus group, whether someone is note taking or recording with a video camera it is important to have a document to look back on [32]. Location is very important when implementing a focus group you want to make it relaxed so that the participants are comfortable and not intimidated but have it formal so that people are serious about what is being discussed within the focus group [33]. Have incentive so that people want to come and join and want to participate this way they are more motivated [34]. Do not force participants to answer because it will ruin the legitimacy and they may just agree with someone else because they are not comfortable sharing. Importantly at the end ask for feedback, this will help you learn from the experience and make the next focus group even better.

[edit] Authors

Sarah Bell

Krista Butters

Heather Finn

Kayleigh Howell

Joel Whitty

[edit] Notes and References

  1. Morgan, D. (1998). The focus group guidebook. Thousand Oaks, Ca. Library of congress cataloguing-in-publication date: Sage Publications Inc. USA.
  2. Brissett, D. & Edgley, C. (1990). Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Source Book. Second edition. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
  3. Edmunds, H. (1999). The Focus Research Handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA
  4. Morgan, D. (1998). The focus group guidebook. Thousand Oaks, Ca. Library of congress cataloguing-in-publication date: Sage Publications Inc. USA.
  5. Morgan, D. (1998). The focus group guidebook. Thousand Oaks, Ca. Library of congress cataloguing-in-publication date: Sage Publications Inc. USA.
  6. Morgan, D. (1998). The focus group guidebook. Thousand Oaks, Ca. Library of congress cataloguing-in-publication date: Sage Publications Inc. USA.
  7. Morgan, D. (1997) Focus groups as qualitative research. Qualitative research Methods Series 16. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA
  8. Beaulac, J., Olavarria, M., & Kristjansson, E. (2010). A Community-Based Hip-Hop Dance Program for Youth in a Disadvantaged Community in Ottawa: Implementation Findings. Health Promotion Practice, 11(3S), 61S-69S.
  9. Hoffmann, T., Desha, L., & Verrall, K. (2011). Evaluating an online occupational therapy community of practice and its role in supporting occupational therapy practice. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58(5), 337-345.
  10. Sanoff, H. (2005). Community participation in riverfront development. Codesign, 1(1), 61-78.
  11. Beaulac, J., Olavarria, M., & Kristjansson, E. (2010). A Community-Based Hip-Hop Dance Program for Youth in a Disadvantaged Community in Ottawa: Implementation Findings. Health Promotion Practice, 11(3S), 61S-69S.
  12. Hoffmann, T., Desha, L., & Verrall, K. (2011). Evaluating an online occupational therapy community of practice and its role in supporting occupational therapy practice. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58(5), 337-345.
  13. Sanoff, H. (2005). Community participation in riverfront development. Codesign, 1(1), 61-78.
  14. Stewart,D., Shamdasani, P. & Rook, D. (2007). Focus groups: theory and practice‬. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA Volume 20 pages, 42-43
  15. Stewart,D., Shamdasani, P. & Rook, D. (2007). Focus groups: theory and practice‬. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA Volume 20 pages, 42-43
  16. Stewart,D., Shamdasani, P. & Rook, D. (2007). Focus groups: theory and practice‬. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA Volume 20 pages, 42-43
  17. Stewart,D., Shamdasani, P. & Rook, D. (2007). Focus groups: theory and practice‬. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA Volume 20 pages, 42-43
  18. Stewart,D., Shamdasani, P. & Rook, D. (2007). Focus groups: theory and practice‬. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA Volume 20 pages, 42-43
  19. Stewart,D., Shamdasani, P. & Rook, D. (2007). Focus groups: theory and practice‬. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA Volume 20 pages, 42-43
  20. Stewart,D., Shamdasani, P. & Rook, D. (2007). Focus groups: theory and practice‬. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA Volume 20 pages, 42-43
  21. Kitzinger, J. (1995). Introducing focus groups. British Medical Journal,311 299-302.
  22. Morgan, D. (1997) Focus groups as qualitative research. Qualitative research Methods Series 16. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc. USA
  23. Powell, R. & Single, H. (1996). International Journal of Quality in Health Care Focus Groups 8(5)499-504
  24. Raby, R. (2010) Public delves inequality and interpretation: The creation of meaning in focus groups and teens. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(1) 1-15.
  25. Raby, R. (2010) Public delves inequality and interpretation: The creation of meaning in focus groups and teens. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(1) 1-15.
  26. Raby, R. (2010) Public delves inequality and interpretation: The creation of meaning in focus groups and teens. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(1) 1-15.
  27. Kitzinger, J. (1995). Introducing focus groups. British Medical Journal,311 299-302.
  28. Kitzinger, J. (1995). Introducing focus groups. British Medical Journal,311 299-302.
  29. Kitzinger, J. (1995). Introducing focus groups. British Medical Journal,311 299-302.
  30. Morgan, D.( 1998).The Focus Group Guideline. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  31. Kruegar, R.A, Casey, M. (2009). Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  32. Morgan, D.( 1998).The Focus Group Guideline. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  33. Kruegar, R.A, Casey, M. (2009). Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  34. Kruegar, R.A, Casey, M. (2009). Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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