Self Report In Rsearch Focus Group Interviews (II)

Afza.Malik GDA

Joint Interviews, Life histories and Oral Histroy

Focus Group Interviews, Methods of Arsenault and Morrison- Beedy (1999), Joint Interviews, Life Histories

Focus Group Interviews, Methods of 
Arsenault and Morrison- Beedy (1999), Joint Interviews, Life Histories

    Focus group interviews are becoming increasingly popular in the study of health problems. In a focus group interview, a group of four or more people is assembled for a discussion. The interviewer (often called a moderator) guides the discussion according to a written set of questions or topics to be covered, as in an equally structured interview. 

    Focus group sessions are carefully planned discussions that take advantage of group dynamics for accessing rich information in an efficient manner.Typically, the people selected for a group (usually through purposive or snowball sampling) are a fairly homogeneous group, to promote a comfortable group dynamic. 

    People usually feel more at ease expressing their views when they share a similar background with other group members. Thus, if the overall sample is diverse, it is usually best to have people with similar characteristics, in terms of race/ethnicity, age, gender, or experience, participating in separate focus groups. 

    Several writers have suggested that the optimal group size for focus groups is 6 to 12 people, but Côté -Arsenault and Morrison- Beedy (1999) advocate smaller groups of about 5 participants when the topic is emotionally charged or sensitive. Groups of four or fewer may not generate sufficient interaction, however, particularly because not everyone is equally comfortable in expressing their view. 

    The setting for the focus group sessions should be selected carefully and, ideally, should be a neutral one. Churches, hospitals, or other settings that are strongly identified with particular values or expected behaviors may not be suitable, depending on the topic. The location should be one that is comfortable, not intimidating, accessible, and easy to find. It should also be acoustically amenable to audiotape recording.

    Moderators play a critical role in the success of focus group interviews. Nurses often already possess the skills and abilities needed to lead focus groups effectively. For example, they are able to elicit detailed and sometimes sensitive information from clients, and often understand the intricacies of group processes. 

    An important job of moderators is to solicit input from all group members, and not let a few vocal people dominate the discussion. It is sometimes useful to have more than one moderator, so that particular cues can be followed up by more than one listener. Researchers other than the moderator should be present, to take detailed notes about each session. 

    A major advantage of a group format is that it is efficient researchers obtain the viewpoints of many individuals in a short time. Moreover, focus groups capitalize on the fact that members react to what is being said by others, thereby potentially leading to richer or deeper expressions of opinion. 

    Also, focus group interviews are usually stimulating to respondents. One disadvantage is that some people are uncomfortable about expressing their views in front of a group. Another possible concern is that the dynamics of the session may foster a group culture that could inhibit individual expression as “group think” takes hold. Studies of focus groups have shown, however, that they are similar to individual interviews in terms of number or quality of ideas generated (Kidd & Parshall, 2000). 

    Focus groups have been used by researchers in many qualitative research traditions, and can play a particularly important role in feminist, critical theory, and participatory action research.

Joint Interviews

    Nurse researchers are sometimes interested in phenomena that involve a relationship between two or three people, or that require understanding the perspective of more than one person. For example, the phenomenon might be the grief that mothers and fathers experience on losing a child, or the experiences of AIDS patients and their caretakers. 

    In such cases, it can be productive to conduct joint interviews in which two or more parties are simultaneously questioned, using either an unstructured or semi structured format. Unlike focus group interviews, which typically involve group members who do not know each other, joint or dyadic interviews are done with people who are often intimately related. 

    Joint interviews usually supplement rather than replace individual interviews, because there are things that cannot readily be discussed in front of the other party (eg, criticisms of the other person's behavior). However, joint interviews can be especially helpful when researchers want to observe the dynamics between two key actors. Morris (2001) provides some useful guidelines and raises important issues in the conduct of joint interviews.

Life Histories 

    Life histories are narrative self-disclosures about individual life experiences. Ethnographers frequently use individual life histories to learn about cultural patterns. A famous example of this is Oscar Lewis' (1959, 1961) life history of poor families in Mexico, which gave rise to the controversial concept of culture of poverty. 

    With a life history approach, researchers ask respondents to provide, often in chronologic sequence, a narration of their ideas and experience either orally or in writing. Life histories may take months, or even years, to record, with researchers providing only gentle guidance in telling of the story. 

    Narrated life histories are often backed up by intensive observation of the person, interviews with friends or family members, or a scrutiny of letters, photographs, or other materials. Leininger (1985) noted that comparative life histories are especially valuable for the study of the patterns and meanings of health and health care, especially among elderly people. Her highly regarded essay provides a protocol for obtaining a life health care history.

Oral Histories

    Researchers use the technique known as oral history to gather personal recollections of events and their perceived causes and consequences. Oral histories, unlike life histories, typically focus on describing important themes rather than individuals. Oral histories are a method for connecting individual experiences with broader social and cultural contexts. 

    Oral histories are an important method for historical researchers when the topic under study is the not-too-distant past, and people who experienced the event can still be asked about those experiences. Oral histories are also a tool used by feminist researchers and other researchers with an ideological perspective because oral histories are a way to reach groups that have been ignored or oppressed. 

    Depending on the focus of the oral history, researchers can conduct interviews with a number of persons or concentrate on multiple interviews with one individual. Researchers usually use unstructured interviews to collect oral history data.

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