††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† INTERVIEWS AND FOCUS GROUPS


†††††††††††††† (From: Bresciani, M. J., Zelna, C., and Anderson, J., Assessing Student Learning and††††† Development, 2004, NASPA)


I.                   Descriptions


A.    Interviews


1.      Purposeful discussions directed by one to gain information from the other

2.      Usually last 30 minutes to one hour

3.      Usually predetermined questions


B.     Focus Groups


1.      An interview with a small group of 6-10people on a specific topic

2.      One facilitator and one note taker

3.      Usually last one to two hours

4.      Usually the facilitator has a list of predetermined questions


II.                Consult with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University


A.    Dr. Sandra Holmes of the Psychology Department is chair of the IRB

B.     She will provide guidelines for the protection of participants in research studies


III.             Why Use Interviews and Focus Groups


A.    Richness of detail, moving to deeper levels of the topic

B.     Can be used as follow ups to survey data, to better understand quantitative data

C.     Can be done before a survey to better understand the type of questions to develop


IV.             Interviews, Focus Groups, or Both?


A.    Topic


1.      Interviews may work better when a topic is very sensitive or volatile

2.      Focus groups can provide more thoughtful answers, based on the group hearing each otherís responses


B.     Time Frame


1.      Focus groups work better when there arelimited time frames

2.      Individual interviews allow more flexibility in setting up interviews, rather than having to schedule a larger group of people


C.    Size of Population


1.      Reminder: interviews and focus groups are not designed to be statistically representative samples of entire populations

2.      Get rich detail from a small number of people


D.    Assistance


1.      Need for two people to do interviews and focus groups: one facilitator and one note taker.

2.      Taping of the focus groups is also recommended


E.     Budget


1.      Tape recorder, tapes, and transcription costs

2.      Incentives: free food, cash, entries in drawings


††††††††††††††††† F. How Easily Can I Fit this Method Into My Responsibilities on a Regular Basis?


V.                Sampling


A.    Sample: Who Do I Invite to Participate?


1.      Purposeful sampling: choosing samples that your believe will provide you with information-rich cases for in-depth study

2.      Stratified sampling within the purposeful sample works well


a.       you may want to cover certain areas, such as gender, ethnicity, geographical distribution, or some other area of importance

b.      by using stratified sampling, you will ensure greater coverage of important areas

c.       other types of purposeful sampling are: maximum variation, typical case, critical case, and an extreme case


3.      Key information source sampling is based on picking people you feel have a strong information base on the topic

a.       snowball sampling is based on asking key information sources after the interview to provide you with names of others who would be good information sources

b.      this may not work as well with focus groups as with interviews


4.      Convenience sampling: the sample is made up of individuals who are easy to interview


††††††††††††††† B. Sample: How Many is Enough


1.      Unlike quantitative inquiry, there are no hard rules in sample size for qualitative inquiry, such as interviews and focus groups

2.      Sample size would depend on:


a.       what you want to know

b.      the purpose of the inquiry

c.       whatís at stake

d.      what will be useful

e.       what will have credibility

f.       what can be done with available times and resources

g.      saturation: you feel you are not getting new or different information


B.     Sampling: inviting people to participate


1.      Will you advertise to see who shows up?

2.      Will you invite specific people?

a.       will you send letters, ask in person, or make phone calls?

3.      Will you send out reminders?

4.      Will you use incentives? Where will the funding come from?


VI.             Interview and Focus Group Protocols


A.    Level of Structure


1.      Unstructured: informal conversations

2.      Semi-structured: works well with focus groups

3.      Structured


a.       standardized structured interviews ask the same questions to each person

b.      gain consistency, but lose flexibility


B.     Protocol Questions


1.      Direct and Indirect Evidence

2.      Order and Content


a.       begin with introductions

b.      explain the purpose of the study

c.       explain the topics to be covered

d.      explain the ground rules, if any

e.       provide information about confidentiality and material from the IRB Board

f.       explain purpose of the taping

g.      start with simpler questions and work toward the more complex

h.      place similar questions together

i.        start with questions that might be more interesting to the people

j.        sensitive questions work better in the middle or toward the end


3.      Avoid jargon

4.      Avoid leading the participants toward a particular answer with your questions


C.    Debriefing


1.      Thank the participants for attending

2.      remind them of the purpose of the study

3.      remind them the information will be confidential

4.      ask for permission to contact them to clarify statements if necessary


VII.          Preparation

A.    Location

1.      quiet location

2.      pick room with an appropriate size


B.     Preparation for Interviewing or Moderating


1.      prepare mentally for the session

2.      respond quickly to new ideas

3.      practice the introduction and questions


VIII.       Conducting the Interview or Focus Group: Tips for Establishing Rapport


A.    Speak Clearly

B.     Show Interest

C.    Control Negative Body Language

D.    Remember Your Role

1.      Gather information, not be critical of responses†††††††††††††††††††


E.     Stay on track

F.     Seek Clarification When Confused Or Unsure of Response


IX.             Common Concerns


A.    Use ground rules to avoid problems with dominant talkers, people rambling, etc.

B.     Note taking is helpful as backup to the tapes

C.    Organizing the transcripts

1.      What are you looking for?

2.      What are the outcomes to be measured?