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Qualitative Research Methods. Ryan Cannon Adriana Cantu. Focus Groups. A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging.

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qualitative research methods

Qualitative Research Methods

Ryan Cannon

Adriana Cantu

focus groups
Focus Groups
  • A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging.
  • Usually consists of 6 to 12 participants who are gathered to discuss a topic.
  • This group is lead by a facilitator (or moderator), as opposed to an interviewer.
  • The facilitator describes the topic to be discussed and tries to create a nonthreatening environment in which all group members feel free to express their opinions, attitudes, and experiences even if they differ from those of other participants.
  • The facilitator should have a predetermined set of questions (also known as a “questioning route”) to ensure that all relevant aspects of the topic are discussed and everyone in the group gets involved.
questioning route for stress focus group
Questioning Route for Stress Focus Group

Opening comments:

Welcome statements regarding the purpose of the study, focus group procedures, and ethical issues.

Opening comment:

“Please tell us a little bit about yourself.”

Introductory question:

“Stress is prevalent in our everyday lives; many people fell stressed. In thinking about your daily life, what does stress mean to you?”

Transition questions:

“Is stress a positive/negative factor in your life? In what ways is it positive/negative?”

Subprobe: “What is it about stress that’s good or bad”?

Key Questions:

“What are the things that contribute to stress in your life?”

Subprobe: (a) “How does this work? Does one thing contribute more stress than others, or does the combination of many things contribute to stress?” (b) “Do you have any particular health concerns that contribute to your feelings of stress? Can you tell us more about this?” (c) “Besides possible health concerns, is there anything else that adds to your feelings of stress?” (d) “does being a manager contribute to your feelings of stress? If so, describe how.”

Ending Questions:

“All things considered, what would you say is the major cause of stress in your life?”

“Is there anything about stress that we haven’t talked about that you would like to raise before we leave tonight?”

focus groups4
Focus Groups
  • Typical focus group lasts about an hour
  • Typical to use two or more focus groups in a given research project
advantage of using focus groups in research
Advantage of using focus groups in research
  • Reveals the evolution of perceptions in a social context.
  • Focus group method began as a business marketing research tool when researchers realized that the perceptions of an individual in isolation may be different from his or her perceptions as they develop in a social context.


A new product that initially seems satisfactory to an individual may been seen as less desirable after he or she has discussed it with other individuals who may have different perspectives on it.

weaknesses of focus groups
Weaknesses of Focus Groups
  • Researcher has less control over a group than one-on-one interview
  • Data are tough to analyze because the talking is in reaction to the comments of other group members
  • The number of members of a focus group is not large enough to be a representative sample of a population; thus, the data obtained from the groups is not necessarily representative of the whole population, unlike in opinion polls
  • The design of the focus group study (e.g. respondent selection, the questions asked, how they are phrased, how they are posed, in what setting, by whom, and so on) affects the answers obtained from respondents.
  • New Coke
case study
Case Study
  • Qualitative descriptive research that is used to look at individuals or small groups of participants.
  • Looks for How and Why
  • Researchers collect data about participants through direct observations, interviews, tests, examinations of records, and collections of writing samples.
  • Draws conclusions only about the participant or group and only in that specific context.
  • Researchers do not focus on the discovery of a universal, generalizable truth, nor do they typically look for cause-effect relationships; instead emphasis is placed on exploration and description.
types of data collected in case studies
Types of Data Collected in Case Studies
  • Documents
  • Archival Records
  • Interviews
  • Direct Observation
  • Participant Observation
case study9
Case Study



  • The case study approach is a comparatively flexible method of scientific research. Because its project designs emphasize exploration rather than prescription or prediction, researchers are comparatively freer to discover and address issues as they arise in their experiments.
  • The looser format of case studies allows researchers to begin with broad questions and narrow their focus as their experiment progresses rather than attempt to predict every possible outcome before the experiment is conducted.

Emphasis on Context

  • By seeking to understand as much as possible about a single subject or small group of subjects, case studies specialize in "deep data," or "thick description"--information based on particular contexts that can give research results a more human face. This emphasis can help bridge the gap between abstract research and concrete practice by allowing researchers to compare their firsthand observations with the quantitative results obtained through other methods of research.
case study10
Case Study


  • Difficult to generalize because of inherent subjectivity and because they are based on qualitative subjective data, generalizable only to a particular context.
  • High investment for non-generalizable results: A budget request of $10,000 to quantitatively examine 200 subjects sounds more efficient than a similar request to examine four subjects in a case study.
  • Semi-structured Interviews:
    • Most widely used type of instrument for collecting data
    • Typically face-to-face interviews and tape recorded
    • Interviews can be examined at a later date (can be examined by other researchers also)
interview protocol
Interview Protocol
  • Consists of written directions for conducting the interview
  • Contains standard set of predetermined questions to be asked of all participants
  • Questions should be pilot tested
    • Pilot tested on a few individuals that are not involved in the study
    • Questions should be revised
    • Questions should be reviewed by experts in the area being investigated
semi structured interviewers
Semi-structured Interviewers
  • The interviewer does not need to ask only the predetermined questions
    • Questions can be re-worded
    • Answers can be asked to be elaborated
  • Qualitative interviewers need to be skilled because they are not following predetermined questions
    • Novice interviewers need to gain practice and should receive feedback from more experienced qualitative researchers

Issue of reality

Interviews are primarily perception based

Objective factual reality is not as interesting or informative to qualitative researchers as participants’ perceptions

Examining perceptions is known as phenomenological approach

the interviewer
The Interviewer:
  • Interviewer should be unbiased
    • Can achieve an unbiased attitude through self-disclosure
    • Self disclosure: considering the research problem in relation to the interviewer’s background and attitude before conducting the interviews
classroom observation
Classroom Observation

Method of measuring classroom behaviors from direct observations

Direct observations specifies both the events or behaviors to be observed and how they are to be recorded

Measures the frequency of specific behaviors that occur in the classroom & their duration

classroom observation17
Classroom Observation

Research on effective teaching typically includes subjective data based on personal and anecdotal accounts of effective teaching.

In order to develop a scientific basis for teaching, researchers have used objective and more reliable methods of systematic classroom observation.

classroom observation18
Classroom Observation
  • Purpose:
    • Description of instructional practice
    • Investigation of instructional inequities for different groups of students
    • Improvement of teachers' classroom instruction based on feedback from individual classroom or school profiles
classroom observation19
Classroom Observation
  • Distinction between nonparticipant observation and participant observation
  • Nonparticipant observation: the qualitative researcher sits at the back of the classroom to observe student/teacher interactions
    • Observes individuals as an outsider
    • Concern: participants behavior may change because they know they are being observed
classroom observation20
Classroom Observation
  • Participant observation: researcher becomes member of the group being researched
    • Makes observations as an insider
    • Ex. Teacher who is also a researcher who wants to study a high school that is widely known for academic achievement might arrange to teach at a school providing an opportunity to observe while participating
    • Making participant observations without awareness by those being observed brings up serious ethical problems