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Where to begin? Grappling with how to use participant interaction in focus group design

Where to begin? Grappling with how to use participant interaction in focus group design Participant interaction is said to be the hallmark of the focus group method, but a number of studies suggest that the defining feature of the method is virtually absent in most focus group research. Our meta-analysis of this debate over participant interaction in the focus group literature suggests that absence of interaction data reflects a philosophical position, rather than neglect. Participant interaction is treated differently in different types of research, reflecting a tacit division between researchers who view the participants primarily as individuals sharing held truths and those who view them as social beings co-constructing meaning while in the focus group. We question the habit of making assumptions about the ‘proper’ use of participant interaction and call for further reflection on its role and usage in light of the aim of each study. We argue that the treatment of participant interaction needs to be a conscious and explicit design decision – one clearly rooted in a theoretical perspective and best suited to the research purpose. While exploring this issue, we discuss how a researcher’s lens affects how they deal with the interaction of participants, what they view as strengths and limitations of the method, and what kinds of results they end up with. We provide an overview of alternative approaches to participant interaction, offer strategies from different disciplines for analysing interaction, and propose a continuum of use demonstrating a range of options for when to use interaction. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Qualitative Research SAGE

Where to begin? Grappling with how to use participant interaction in focus group design

Qualitative Research , Volume 12 (4): 14 – Aug 1, 2012

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References (18)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2012
ISSN
1468-7941
eISSN
1741-3109
DOI
10.1177/1468794111433089
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Participant interaction is said to be the hallmark of the focus group method, but a number of studies suggest that the defining feature of the method is virtually absent in most focus group research. Our meta-analysis of this debate over participant interaction in the focus group literature suggests that absence of interaction data reflects a philosophical position, rather than neglect. Participant interaction is treated differently in different types of research, reflecting a tacit division between researchers who view the participants primarily as individuals sharing held truths and those who view them as social beings co-constructing meaning while in the focus group. We question the habit of making assumptions about the ‘proper’ use of participant interaction and call for further reflection on its role and usage in light of the aim of each study. We argue that the treatment of participant interaction needs to be a conscious and explicit design decision – one clearly rooted in a theoretical perspective and best suited to the research purpose. While exploring this issue, we discuss how a researcher’s lens affects how they deal with the interaction of participants, what they view as strengths and limitations of the method, and what kinds of results they end up with. We provide an overview of alternative approaches to participant interaction, offer strategies from different disciplines for analysing interaction, and propose a continuum of use demonstrating a range of options for when to use interaction.

Journal

Qualitative ResearchSAGE

Published: Aug 1, 2012

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