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soc 232 march 15.doc

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SOC 232
Stuart Leard

Soc 232 March 15 2013 1 Focus groups A moderator or facilitator Several interviewees at once (four or more) May bring out a wide variety of perspectives on an issue. Brings out why people feel the way they do. Naturalistic Brings out how individuals collectively make decisions and interpretations. (a premise of symbolic interactionism) Interviewee’s may show conformity or become argumentative. Challenging by other interviewees may result in more realistic accounts of what people believe. How many groups? Usually about 10 to 15 More if necessary for demographics Enough for theoretical saturation Researchers can predict what will be said Size of groups Depends on the topic and the goals of the research Morgan (1998): six to ten people Smaller group if the topics are controversial, complex, emotional Enlist people unknown to each other, or natural groups? Natural groups: people who already know each other or already have had some interaction. May be appropriate, depending on the goals of the research. E.g. Kitzinger (1993, 1994) Useful if the research is actually about how social interaction occurs. Disadvantages: Pre-existing styles of interaction or status hierarchies may affect the discussion. The group may have taken-for-granted assumptions that are not challenged. Asking questions in focus groups Usually a small number of general questions is used. Opening, clarifying or refocusing the group Amount of intervention taken by the moderator depends on the topic of the discussion; how much knowledge the participants have; the goals of the research. With the purpose being generation of discussion among a group, the use of an electronic recorder is all the more important. Limitations of Focus Groups Soc 232 March 15 2013 2 Less control over discussion than interview. An unwieldy amount of data may be produced. The data may be difficult to analyze. Group effects. Personality dynamics (dominant, quiet). There is evidence that group situation generates conformity. E.g. difference in expression of boys regarding relationships with girls in a private interview or focus group. Sensitivity replaced by machismo. Difficult when sensitive issues, social hierarchy, strongly opposed positions. Online Focus Groups Usually smaller Six to eight people May be more difficult to moderate Several responses at once Flow is difficult Overcomes geographical issues and sensitive topics Visual biases reduced Less reactive response to moderators Often a safe and friendly environment, Done at home Disadvantages of Online Focus Groups Compared to Face-to-Face Focus Groups More difficult to establish rapport. More difficult to probe. Higher non-response. Moderator cannot read body language. Can’t identify distracted participants. Online connection may be lost. Ethnography (immersed in a social setting) vs. Qualitative Interviewing Advantages of Ethnography / Participant Observation Better for ‘seeing through the eyes of others.’ Better for learning the ‘native language.’ Can discover ‘things taken for granted.’ Better for uncovering deviant/hidden activities. Can establish context of people’s behaviour. More naturalistic.
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