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10 Focus Groups: Learning Objectives. describe the history and uses of focus groups list the elements of an interview guide for focus groups summarize the advantages and disadvantages of focus group methods in public health list design issues for focus group activities

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10 Focus Groups: Learning Objectives


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    1. 10 Focus Groups: Learning Objectives describe the history and uses of focus groups list the elements of an interview guide for focus groups summarize the advantages and disadvantages of focus group methods in public health list design issues for focus group activities enumerate moderator and observer/note taker techniques participate in or observe a focus group in class

    2. Tony's comments on participant observations

    3. Group Data Collection Methods

    4. Natural Groups Examples • people doing laundry by the river • mother’s club • men gathered around tree to play cards • teenagers hanging around outside a 7-11 • people in a laundromat • people at a karoke bar • patients in a waiting room at a dentist office

    5. Natural Groups: usually more heterogeneous than you would like, but used a lot because they are there in modern developed countries, there are fewer opportunities for natural groups, because of the way we have been isolated by technology

    6. How many have been in focus groups, or run them? experiences and insights?

    7. Focus group: facilitated group discussion on a focused topic Huge industry in US Propaganda comprises 1/7th of our economy Hollywood studies test-market violent films using focus groups aged 13-16 and even recruit children as young as 9 to evaluate story concepts, commercials, theatrical trailers and rough cuts for R-rated movies (NYT 000927) Term applied to broad array of group exercises (buttons pushed watching election debates)

    8. HISTORY first used to evaluate effectiveness of war time propaganda over 50 years ago

    9. KEY FEATURE: if a focus group is going well, the participants will interact amongst themselves Group interaction produces data and insights less likely without the interaction found in a group Use a moderator and a recorder

    10. When to consider using focus groups? Understanding some issue from specific population’s perspective Generate hypotheses based on informants’ insights Survey instrument development

    11. When to consider using focus groups? Formative research: needs assessment Educational materials pre-testing Health promotion techniques Evaluating research sites, study populations, or programs Exploration of interpretation of research results Community participation or mobilization Orienting oneself to a new field

    12. Advantages of focus groups Does not discriminate between literates & non-literates Can encourage participation from those who are reluctant to be interviewed on their own Can encourage contributions from those who feel they have nothing to say, or are characterized as unresponsive

    13. Either self-contained data collection technique, or part of a larger research program

    14. Choosing between focus group discussions and alternative data collection strategies?

    15. When should you consider using another data collection method? Types of topics Opinions with unknown basis in behavior or little/no personal experience Abstract or complex ideas When participants would not actively or easily discuss the topic of interest

    16. When should you consider using another data collection method? Types of respondents Adolescents Elderly Severe mental illness

    17. Ethical issues use of names/identification Who sees data Tape recording & data management video taping is much much more intrusive, less acceptable so don’t do it • is much more difficult to analyze, better to have printed transcripts Inherent invasion of privacy issues

    18. In geographic regions where meaningful difference felt to exist climate, weather, local economic conditions, local lifestyle, political leanings, level of literacy Pre-testing where change order of materials presented Conduct enough groups

    19. Size of groups: 4-12, ideal 6-8

    20. Smaller groups expect greater depth of response from each participant highly sensitive to dynamics between individuals use a smaller group when • topics are complex, or intense (e.g. child abuse perpetrators or victims) • participants have expertise on the topic, or have authority or power, since they may be irritated if they do not have enough time to say what they feel is important

    21. Larger groups expect respondents may speak longer, with irrelevant information, when they finally get an opportunity to speak frustration or dissatisfaction among group members, because of inability to get a turn to speak, with resulting lower quality & quantity of output

    22. Larger groups expect low-level participation problems, need more moderator involvement more tendency for side conversation between respondents dominant/submissive relationships evolve more generation of ideas generally harder to do well

    23. Composition (sampling) of groups Homogeneity to avoid conflict, and refusals to share opinions-- How much is necessary? foster discussion; so that participants are comfortable with each other. avoid ‘experts’ who can dominate often useful to have a screening questionnaire for participants want them to share a common interest in the topic & feel comfortable together

    24. Factors that can lead toproblematic heterogeneity gender, • on some issues, having men and women can be OK, unless there is considerable gender based disagreement • explore with both types of groups SES/education, SOCIAL CLASS CRITICAL ONE life stage, Age, new mothers cf older mothers, or mothers with large family lifestyle,

    25. Factors that can lead to problematic heterogeneity user status, • users of a product or practitioners, or non- practitioners • sometimes can get contrasts if include both, especially if there is no social stigma level of expertise/experience, • those who have used a product, or practiced a behavior for a long time may be quite different from a novice

    26. Factors that can lead to problematic heterogeneity marital status, • use of contraceptives among married and unmarried women sub-cultures/ethnicity sometimes some heterogeneity can be useful, e.g. young & old

    27. can choose respondents who have previously participated in focus groups

    28. Friends: to include or not? literature says people in a focus group should not know one another some people may not meet with others they do not know in many communities it is impossible to find strangers, everyone knows each other, yet focus groups can be run successfully there

    29. Setting of the groups privacy acoustics • avoid noisy areas so respondents can hear one another & moderator can hear all respondents, can be problem when hold them in situ so have to find quietest spot accessible to respondents, culturally conducive for the participants • if people travel a long way, this could affect group results • a brothel, a pasture, a farm field

    30. Setting of the groups Any external observers? • if so, have two-way mirror, or set up partitions, or adjacent rooms with open doorways, make this clear to the participants (marketing does this) Neutral sites, but familiar, don’t bring them into your office • schools or government buildings may induce a desire to respond “correctly” • natural environments, convenient locations conducive to conversations with familiar surroundings, may enhance quality of data

    31. Seating Arrangements avoid designating status, e.g. at head of table, next to moderator • hunkering on the floor may be appropriate in many settings enable moderator to have good eye contact with all respondents, and for each respondent to be in sight of all other participants (harder with larger groups) visible name tags (first name or pseudonyms) can help calling on people by name

    32. Recruiting participants common source of failure, too few people show up, 1 or 2 or 3, like a response rate in a survey • use key community leaders, rather than unknown person to approach participants • advertising in local radio station, print media, generally less successful • repeated contacts, a single phone call is not sufficient, let them know they will be contacted later to remind them at the initial contact • mail reminders, make additional phone calls, at least the night before

    33. Incentives paying people • usually focus group more important to the researcher than to the participant • market researchers pay • often social researchers don’t have the funds other incentives • gives participants a voice on issues that affect them (psychological) (stakeholders) • social or professional interaction among peers • food • sometimes women may find it necessary to bring a friend

    34. Over-recruit strategy, especially for marginalized participants such as prostitutes sometimes women may find it necessary to bring a friend if you offer monetary incentives you might over-recruit, and if get too many people, pay the ones who don’t participate

    35. Duration of group Attention span, until they get tired Time of day, people tend to be less bright in afternoon (when this class is held) Maximum start to finish = 2 hrs (consider break)

    36. Focus Group Discussions Field Guide have document like an ethnographic field guide, sometimes called a topic guide summary statement of issues & objectives to cover in a focus group road map and memory aid for moderator often have initial question to which all participants asked to respond

    37. Focus Group Discussions Field Guide common errors: mostly questions are of interest to the researcher, and not to the participant • start with what is of interest to the participants, will generate lively discussion • then shiftto researcher’s central interests, when group members feel comfortable sharing & comparing their experiences & opinions have too many questions so try to push group along, rather than explore

    38. Focus Group Discussions Field Guide common errors: best to outline question areas or issues, include special probes under each of key issues • detail depends on experience of moderator may need different topic guides for focus groups on same subject, with different composition of respondents • e.g. safer sex behavior among teenagers of different sex or sexual identity

    39. Topics to include don’t cover too many issues or participants will become bored and fatigued, group will jump around unnaturally • if too many issues, suggests preparatory research hasn’t been sufficiently focused, or need a different method at this stage • eliminate questions that are “nice to know”, but not relevant to research objectives • eliminate questions such as “how many” or “how often” that could be better addressed in a quantitative study

    40. Topics move from general to specific flow of group is more natural analyst has framework for comments made in group key issues can emerge naturally Order topics to avoid putting respondents in irreversible situations or verbal “dead ends” • e.g. if talking about legislating gun control in Montana, and find out one person is a member of the Montana Militia

    41. Focus Group Operational and Logistic Issues

    42. Introduction, warm-up Thanks for coming, your presence is important Describe what a focus group is Describe role of moderator, recorder

    43. Purpose state purpose of group, that interest is in idea, comments, suggestions no right or wrong answers all comments welcome feel free to disagree with one another, we want to have many points of view

    44. Procedure explain use of audio/video tape, and confidentiality • sometimes having each person speak their name, or a pseudonym, record that and play it back can break the ice here tell people they can speak without waiting for moderator to call on them ask people to speak one at a time tell people they can interrupt the moderator, who may want to move the discussion along

    45. Self Introduction ask each participant to introduce self, say a little about themselves can use pseudonyms,