Focus Group Methodology Principle And Practice Pdf
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Focus group methodology generates distinct ethical challenges that do not correspond fully to those raised by one-to-one interviews. This paper explores, in both conceptual and practical terms, three key issues: consent; confidentiality and anonymity; and risk of harm. The principal challenge in obtaining consent lies in giving a clear account of what will take place in the group, owing to unpredictability of the discussion and interaction that will occur.
Focus group methodology generates distinct ethical challenges that do not correspond fully to those raised by one-to-one interviews. This paper explores, in both conceptual and practical terms, three key issues: consent; confidentiality and anonymity; and risk of harm.
The principal challenge in obtaining consent lies in giving a clear account of what will take place in the group, owing to unpredictability of the discussion and interaction that will occur. As consent can be seen in terms of creating appropriate expectations in the participant, this may therefore be hard to achieve. Moreover, it is less straightforward for the participant to revoke consent than in one-to-one interviews. If the group discussion encourages over-disclosure by some participants, this problem becomes more acute.
Harm in a focus group may arise from the discussion of sensitive topics, and this may be amplified by the public nature of the discussion.
A balance should be struck between avoiding or closing down potentially distressing discussion and silencing the voices of certain participants to whom such discussion may be important or beneficial. As a means of addressing the above issues, we outline some strategies that can be adopted in the consent process, in a preliminary briefing session, during moderation of the focus group, and in a subsequent debriefing, and suggest that these strategies can be employed synergistically so as to reinforce each other.
The ethics of interview research have been widely discussed. In contrast, ethical aspects of focus group research have received somewhat less detailed attention.
Just as the methodology of dyadic interviews may raise ethical issues that do not correspond fully to those raised by one-to-one interviews Lowton , so focus group methodology raises distinct challenges.
This paper will examine these challenges, in both conceptual and practical terms, focusing on issues relating to consent, confidentiality, and risk of harm.
The focus group has its origins in an approach to group interviewing described by Merton et al. Since then, it has gained increasing popularity within qualitative research and evaluation.
Several detailed accounts of focus group methodology are available e. Consent is a central ethical concern in research using human participants. Hence, Walker : p. The underlying moral ground of consent is centred primarily in the notion of autonomy, on the basis that the consent process can be seen as a means of protecting and supporting autonomous decision making on the part of the research participant Faden and Beauchamp ; Beauchamp Additionally, it is supported by the associated principle of respect for persons, which requires one not to use a person merely as a means to an end Downie and Telfer Fulfilment of each of these elements is necessary for informed consent to carry its intended moral force Sim Lack of information—i.
In interview-based studies, such information usually states the purpose of the study, gives an outline of the topic s to be covered, indicates the way in which the interview will be conducted and how long it is likely to last, draws attention to any potential benefits or risks associated with taking part, and describes what will be done with the data collected. Using the details provided, the participant should be able to foresee or imagine the situation to which he or she is consenting—therefore, the process is perhaps better seen as creating or perhaps modifying certain expectations in the mind of the participant rather than as simply the conveying of information.
Such expectations will be formed by the manner and context in which information is communicated, and not just by the factual content of this information, and it is therefore more appropriate to think in terms of the message received in the consent process than in terms of the message sent.
One potentially problematic issue relating to consent in focus groups stems from the degree of disclosure that is possible. In qualitative research generally, the fact that design and methods are to some extent emergent—rather than pre-specified, as they usually are in quantitative research—makes it hard to provide fine-grained detail on what will occur in a study Wiles This applies even more in focus group research, because what takes place in the group depends in part upon other participants, who may spontaneously raise issues not necessarily intended, or predicted, by the moderator.
As Warr : p. Although focus group participants can decline to respond to a particular question—probably more easily than in a one-to-one interview—they may not be able to divert the discussion away from a topic that they find uncomfortable.
In effect, they may be unable to foreclose a particular topic in a way that is possible in an individual interview, particularly in the presence of more dominant group members. Footnote 1 Accordingly, to the extent that the discussion in a focus group may take an unanticipated turn, reliance on the disclosure element of consent is thereby weakened. Turning to the information that is disclosed, as noted earlier this will create particular expectations in participants.
Some of these expectations may be inaccurate owing to certain assumptions on the part of participants. For example, they may not appreciate that whilst a focus group may be about exploring a social or health-related problem, it does not necessarily aim to provide solutions to such problems Carey and Asbury In this connection, for example, Briller et al.
A second issue arises here in relation to the contribution that the participant anticipates making to the group discussion.
Ensuring that this expectation is fulfilled may require skilful moderation, so as to facilitate participation by all group members. Kitzinger : p. The other side of this coin is that participants should not feel obliged to contribute to a particular line of discussion, and again careful moderation is needed here.
Lezaun characterizes an underlying principle of the focus group as isegoric —a concern to provide all participants with an equal opportunity to express or to decline to express their views.
This obligation may be heightened by the expectations created in the consent process. However, although participants may expect to have their voices heard, they should understand that the predominant insights that emerge from the focus group, and that are subsequently reported, may not reflect their individual views especially if the issue is controversial, giving a rise to a range of possibly conflicting viewpoints.
A common practice in qualitative research based on interview data is respondent validation Lincoln and Guba Each participant would thereby be provided with a written record of the data provided by the whole group. This may not have been anticipated by other participants, and is therefore something of which they should be made aware in the consent process. Respondent validation would therefore be hard to carry out unless consented to by all participants.
Consent is normally regarded as revocable, such that an individual can withdraw from the study at any point after initially consenting to participate Faden and Beauchamp It is important to consider the extent to which this option can realistically be exercised in a focus group.
Withdrawing from a group discussion is a very public and potentially disruptive act that an individual may find hard to perform. Additionally, in consent documentation the right to withdraw is often stated in terms of not having to give a reason or justification for doing so—this would be difficult in a group situation, as leaving a collective social activity prematurely normally demands some form of explanation. Revoking consent to participation is thus less straightforward in a focus group than in many other research contexts.
Just as participants may withdraw their participation in an interview, it is claimed that they may similarly withdraw their data, either from the transcript, or from those parts that are reported as quotations, or from both Kervin et al. However, withdrawing data from a transcript prior to analysis—which is sometimes proposed Farquhar ; Barbour —can give rise to particular difficulties in focus group research.
First, if data were to be removed from a transcript prior to analysis, notwithstanding the difficulty of doing so, the inferences that can be drawn from the transcript as a whole may be undermined. Meaning in focus group analysis is derived to a large degree from the dialogue that occurs between participants, rather than from what individual participants, taken singly, have said.
The analytical insights that emerge are co-constructed by all the participants, and indeed by the moderator also. Thus, the removal of a section of dialogue may make it hard, or even impossible, to meaningfully interpret subsequent dialogue. Excising material from the transcript may therefore limit the extent to which a coherent analysis can occur. So not only does the withdrawal reduce the contribution of the person whose data they are, but it also denies other participants a full opportunity to make such a contribution.
Probably the only way to resolve this problem is to make it explicit in the consent process that whilst a participant can withdraw from the group, and may ask that his or her data are not quoted when the study is reported, withdrawing data prior to analysis is simply not possible.
Accordingly, the inability to retract their data in this way is something to which participants will have consented.
So, it might be objected that autonomy implies the right to refuse, and that such refusal can occur at any stage in the research process. Three responses can be made to this objection.
One can make an autonomous choice that one understands to be binding, such as when making a promise or signing a contract. Footnote 3 Third, the detrimental effect on the analysis of withdrawing data in this way is liable to frustrate the moral obligation of the researcher to maximize the value of the insights gained from the study. Footnote 4. Confidentiality and anonymity are often treated more or less synonymously.
Footnote 5 There are, however, important distinctions that can be drawn between these two concepts, and the related notion of privacy. Anonymity, in contrast, is concerned with the attribution of information—can individuals be identified from the data that they provide or from other information relating to them?
The fact that some individuals might be concerned about the disclosure of certain information even if they saw no possibility of its being attributed to them—or conversely, that they might not wish their identity as a participant to be disclosed even if no other information relating to them were revealed—demonstrates that confidentiality and anonymity are not equivalent. Whilst confidentiality and anonymity refer to the use and attribution of information, respectively, privacy has to do with initial access to information, and therefore comes into play before considerations of confidentiality and anonymity arise.
Footnote 6. As regards data, an assurance can be provided these will be reported anonymously, but if data are declared confidential this would seem to preclude their being directly reported in the form of quotations. Assurances of confidentiality in relation specifically to data are not therefore meaningful unless anonymity is simply re-expressed in terms of the confidentiality of any identifying information.
In terms of information other than data, such as information about the context of the study or biographical details relating to participants, both anonymity and confidentiality are feasible, as such information may either be presented in a form that preserves anonymity, or may not be disclosed at all particularly if any such disclosure would be hard without thereby breaching anonymity.
An important relationship between confidentiality and anonymity is that confidentiality is of greatest concern if anonymity cannot be assured. The focus group is such that issues of confidentiality and anonymity are acute, especially when the discussion concerns sensitive topics:.
The nature of the group setting is such that participants are obliged to express in public what they usually regard as private, and neither the reaction nor the discretion of the group can necessarily be predicted. Wellings et al. An obvious way to preserve anonymity is to ensure that no real names or other directly identifying information are reported. Even though no directly identifying information had been used, it emerged that some participants in the study were able to identify themselves and others when the study was published Ellis Two points about deductive disclosure bear emphasizing.
First, the richer and more detailed the data reported, the greater the likelihood of deductive disclosure Edwards and Weller In the context of focus groups, Tolich draws a distinction between internal and external confidentiality. Whereas external confidentiality concerns the possible disclosure of information by the researcher, internal confidentiality has to do with information that might be disclosed by members of the group.
Footnote 7 Clearly, external confidentiality can normally be assured by the researcher, as he or she is in control of what is reported from the study. Internal confidentiality relies on adherence to ground rules and observance of aspects of the consent process, over both of which the researcher has much more limited control.
It is often recommended that focus groups should be composed of individuals previously unknown to each other, so that pre-existing relationships, and certain assumptions or expectations that these involve, do not influence disclosure Morgan This assists in preserving anonymity, but if participants are known to one another, their anonymity is clearly harder to maintain.
Footnote 8 Additionally, the discussion within the group—and therefore what may be reported—may make reference to existing relationships or a shared history within the group, such that individuals may be recognized by others outside the focus group but within a broader social circle, through deductive disclosure. Bloor et al. A linked issue to internal confidentiality is that of over-disclosure. Within any form of interview, the rapport that is established between the informant and the researcher, and the efforts of the latter to encourage views or experiences to be expressed, may lead to an individual saying more than he or she might have wished or intended to.
Within the specific context of a focus group, not only may the supportive atmosphere that can characterize the group encourage such over-disclosure Bloor et al. Morgan : p. Through careful monitoring of the dialogue and interaction occurring within the group, the moderator can help to minimize the risk of over-disclosure.
The moderator can also minimize deductive disclosure, by omitting certain information about participants in a report, by attributing quotations to categories of participants rather than pseudonymized individuals, or by altering other information that is potentially identifying.
In the process, however, the ability of the researcher to present, or the reader to infer, valuable insights from the data may be reduced.
issues in research Focus groups : principles and process
Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. Focus groups: principles and process Richard Redmond and Elizabeth Curtis describe the process of conducting focus groups. It is specifically aimed at students undertaking research methods modules and those planning to use focus groups as a means of collecting data. It begins with a discussion of the uses of focus groups before moving on to discuss some of the many activities associated with the planning, organising and conducting of focus groups.
The focus group discussions emphasised group interaction through discussion, sharing and the comparing of experiences. This technique encourages every.
Focus Group Methodology: Principle and Practice
It also includes discussions on cross-cultural and virtual focus group. Illustrated with case studies and examples throughout, this is a perfect introduction to focus group methods for students and new researchers alike, finds Keerty Nakray. Focus Group Methodology: Principles and Practice.
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[PDF] Focus Group Methodology: Principle and Practice Popular Collection
Ask most laypeople to talk about market research and they are likely to skip over discussions about weighting, response fatigue, feasibility and conjoint analysis techniques and instead turn immediately to surveys and focus groups. In reality, however, focus groups are far more than the image many members of the general population picture in their heads. Yes, they might entail a group of people talking a product with a moderator for an hour or two, but the specifics surrounding that discussion can and do! Take a look at the different types of focus groups:. This is what most people think about when asked about focus groups.
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It also includes discussions on cross-cultural and virtual focus group. Illustrated with case studies and examples throughout, this is a perfect introduction to focus group methods for students and new researchers alike, finds Keerty Nakray. Focus Group Methodology: Principles and Practice. Pranee Liamputtong. Find this book:.
Focus Group Methodology: Principle and Practice [Liamputtong, Pranee] on gilariverdistrict.org *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Focus Group Methodology.
Focus Group Methodology is an introductory text which leads readers through the entire process of designing a focus group study, from conducting interviews and analyzing data to presenting the findings. Liamputtong presents clear, practical adviceMoreFocus Group Methodology is an introductory text which leads readers through the entire process of designing a focus group study, from conducting interviews and analyzing data to presenting the findings. Liamputtong presents clear, practical advice in simple terms which will be appropriate for undergraduate and postgraduate students who are undertaking research, making this an ideal starter text for anyone new to focus group research. Like her previous book, Researching the Vulnerable, Liamputtongs latest work pays close attention to research ethics and will also be of great interest to researchers who are working with different social groups - such as older people, children and ethnic groups - and anybody who is engaging in cross-cultural research. Illustrated with case studies and examples throughout this is a perfect introduction to focus group methods for students and new researchers alike. Focus Group Methodology: Principle and Practice. A letter to the national convention of France, on.
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