Qualitative Research: Focus Groups Discussions (Essay Sample)
The paper was a book summary and I was expected to define what focus group as a qualitative research technique, describe it in detail, evaluate its pros and cons, myths associated with its application, alternative technique, and understand the difference between online and traditional focus group.source..
Qualitative Research: Focus Groups Discussions
Qualitative research involves the collection and analysis of data using non-numerical methods (for example, videos, texts, and audios) to understand experiences, opinions, or concepts. Qualitative research helps research gather extensive insight about a social problem or generate new and unexplored research ideas. Qualitative research is necessary for research because generating new content is open-minded, incorporates human experiences, saves money, users multiple data collection methods, involves face-to-face conversation making it possible to understand participants' attitudes, and most importantly, it gives room for creativity. Qualitative research techniques include observations, focus groups, surveys, interviews, and secondary research. Observations entail recording what has been heard, seen, or encountered. Interviews collect data through one-on-one, face-to-face conversations. Surveys entail questionnaire distribution with open-ended questions (Gill, Stewart, Treasure, and Chadwick, 2008, p. 291). Secondary research is all about collecting and analyzing existing data, whereas focus groups ask questions to trigger discussions among a selected group of people. Focus group explores people’s opinions, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes towards ideas, problems, concepts, services, products, and advertisements. Focus groups are undertaken by trained moderators and play a critical role qualitative research method.
A trained moderator is considered as an individual who undertakes a focus group interview. As trained professionals, their role is to let the participants know the interview's purpose, conduct the questioning, participant probing, and the entire interview session. Ideally, a moderator organizes the interview, recruits participants, findings, and sets up all data collection equipment, overseeing the data collection process, facilitates all discussions, and gives briefs to prior and post-focused groups. Also, the trained moderator transcribes and analyses collected data (183). The moderator must have a combination of the following qualities and skills; it is naturally curious, interactive, flexible, strong verbal skills, excellent communicator, is excited about new discoveries, comfortable and trustworthy, and is always impartial, unbiased, and open-minded.
Ideally, focus groups (FG) are conducted mainly by trained moderators, often in a non-structured manner with a selected group of participants. Every time an FG is undertaken, the key goal is to gather insights and opinions by establishing a forum whereby participants are relaxed and comfortable. Accordingly, the main purpose of an FG is to help bridge the social and cultural gaps between researchers and participants (184). This interaction's value lies in the discovery of new ideas and insights only achievable through free-flowing conversations. FGs are vital in qualitative research marketing and help gain insight into new products and image oversight.
Key characteristics define focus groups. First is the group size, which should be between 6-10. The small group often fails to generate momentum, while large groups make it hard to drive engaging conversations. Secondly, the group composition in an FG is often homogenous as this makes it easy to discuss and explore the issue presented. Thirdly, the physical setting of an FG needs to be in an informal and relaxed setting. Fourthly, the time duration should be a bit longer (1.5 hrs – 6 hrs) to give enough time for discussion (Gill, Stewart, Treasure, and Chadwick, 2008, p. 291). Fifthly, FGs have moderators, and data is collected through audio or video recording as well as studying facial expression or studying body movements (185). Finally, FGs are people involving, stimulates discussions, topic-focused, and generally qualitative.
Planning and conducting FG
There are four key steps of conducting an FG: (a) planning, (b)recruiting, (c)moderating, and (d) qualitative analysis and result reporting. The first step is planning, and here the researcher defines the intended research purpose, develop a timeline, determine participants, identify a recruitment plan, identify sponsors, develop a question guide, set date, location, and expected time with FG; develop an analysis plan, and specify the key content of the end report. Defining the purpose and outcome of the research is a very important stage in FG planning (Gill and Baillie, 2018, p. 668). Outcomes and purpose guide the research and allow the research team to develop measurable and achievable goals. It allows them to plan for resources and set an attainable timeline such as six weeks or eight weeks. Since FG questions are not revised after the data collection section has begun, planning allows the researcher to design direct, jargon-free questions focused on recruits’ experiences and conversational. More importantly, it sets the basis for recruiting ideal participants, identifying a relaxing and easily accessible venue and convenient dates. Locations free from distractions and comfortable are much ideal.
Secondly, recruiting is a key stage in FG. Since it is conducted over the phone or via a one-on-one interaction, it is important to note the research subject, who will be in attendance, means of data collection, and refreshments where possible. A range of 6-10 participants is ideal, and the recruitment process should seek to follow set code of ethics such as offering them detailed information about the session, seeking their consent, and data privacy. The fourth step is moderating, and in this stage, selecting a well-trained moderator is key (Guest et al., 2017, p. 693). Moderators have a duty to introduce and guide focus groups, guide the entire discussion, enforce all requirements, and organize everything from start to finish. Moderators must know their biases and treat all participants equally. Finally, analyzing and recruiting, which is the last step, is solely defined by the research purpose and outcome. Data analysis can be descriptive, multivariate association, or reduction. Data analysis can also be based solely on the moderator's memory, recorded audio, or discussion notes.
Advantages and disadvantages of FG
FGs first advantage is its ability to measure customer's reactions to a product or image securely. Second, FGs is time-saving and speedy because it allows the company to solicit quantity insights, feedback, and opinions on several aspects without much work. Thirdly, it gives researchers a window into their participants' heads, allowing them to get the actual picture of what they want or know. Fourthly, FGs are focused on discussions and conversations that bring about a snowballing effect leading to valuable research output (185). Fifthly, FGs triggers synergy which allows researchers and participant engage on viewpoints and discuss their disagreements. Sixth, FGs structure allows for flexibility in research topic coverage. Seventh, FGs allow research extra vital data from a purposefully selected group rather than a statistically selected sample. Eight, FGs have the advantage of spontaneity, allowing researchers to collect data on anything from p
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