Focus Group Research- Reliability, Validity, Replicability, Generalisability

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Focus group research- reliability, validity, replicability, generalisability

A focus group can be defined as a group interview- centered on a specific topic and facilitated and co-ordinated by a moderator or facilitator- which seeks to generate primarily qualitative data, by capitalizing on the interaction that occurs within the group setting. The idea behind the focus group method is that group processes can help people to explore and clarify their views in ways that be less easily accessible in a one to one interview. While the focus group opens up exciting analytical possibilities, it also gives rise to a number of potentially problematic issues in this respect. Definitions:

Reliability- The quality of being reliable, dependable or trustworthy. Validity- The state or quality of being valid (having some foundation; based on truth) Replicability- Property of an activity, process, or test result that allows it to be duplicated at another location or time. Generalisability- Generalizability is a process in testing and statistics theory that takes a score from a sample of behaviors and applies them to the entire possible set of observations

The group dynamics which take place in a focus group are central to its success. However, these interpersonal processes may cause problems in the interpretation of focus group data. One problem is that of the ‘censoring’ of dissenting views held by less confident participants within the group. The emergence of dissonant views and perspectives — what Kitzinger (1994b) calls ‘argumentative interactions’— often contributes importantly to the richness of focus group data, but may be artificially suppressed. Certain members of the group may be more assertive or articulate than others, and their views may come to dominate the proceedings; such individuals have been described as ‘thought leaders’ ( Henderson 1995). This reflects the tendency of those who find themselves in a minority to acquiesce to the majority view ( Asch 1951, Deutsch & Gerard 1955, Carey & Smith 1994). There is a further problem here. If a viewpoint which is shared by most of the group lies in one direction or other on the attitude continuum it may be exaggerated through what is known as a group polarization effect ( Turner 1991). The prevalent group viewpoint will tend to converge on the end of the continuum in question, but will also tend to be amplified in the process. In comparison, any divergent viewpoints will tend to be suppressed. Interestingly, when the topic in question is one which elicits an evaluative response from group members, Carey (1995) suggests that this convergence of viewpoint tends to be negative rather than positive. The more homogeneous the participants (which, as previously noted, is in other respects advantageous), the greater the likelihood of polarization. Another negative aspect is that the focus group output is not projectable. If a great deal of consistency in the results from a series of focus groups have been identified and it is very likely that the results from these sessions probably can represent a larger number of people. We can’t expect focus groups to be projectable in the same way as quantitative study findings can be. My last point about the disadvantages is that focus groups are a very artificial environment which can influence the responses that are generated. This is frequently the argument that ethnographers will use when recommending their methodology versus focus groups. Because researchers using the ethnographic technique will situate themselves in the real environment, that is unreachable for focus groups. In focus groups people are collected in a meeting room thus they might behave differently from how they behave when they are not watched and it will effect the quality of research results.

But there is also a high number of advantages of focus group research . First of all the authority role of the moderator. The face-to-face involvement of a...
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