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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING][An Introduction to Interviews and Focus Groups]

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Qualitative researchoffers unique opportunities for gaining insightsinto your participant's social lives, experiences,and the underpinnings of their worldviews.Through interviews and focus groups,you can gain direct detailed insightsabout people's accounts of their thinking, behavior,and relationships.However, there are also a number of common pitfalls

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: that can undermine the quality of qualitative research.You'll need detailed plans, including interview or focusgroup guides, templates for taking field notes,and strategies for how best to interactwith your participants, as well a plan for your research ethicspractices.Yet you also need to be flexible whendeveloping your research plans.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: Good qualitative research allows for emergencein which new information that comesto light during the process of generating datacan trigger changes in the focus, approach, and contentof subsequent data gathering.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Semi structuredqualitative interviewing relies on a listof open-ended questions that includes follow ups.This list identifies topics you'd like to cover,but you don't need to ask these questions in order.Semi-structured qualitative interviewingis the most appropriate method of data collectionwhen you're looking to understand individual'sperspectives on a specific topic in depth

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: while maintaining the flexibility of exploringinteresting threads in the interview as they unfold.[Qualitative Interviews]

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: You can use qualitative interviewsto understand the what, how, when,and why of your research topic.What assumptions, needs, stereotypes, desires, and hopesare underpinning the issues you're researching?Qualitative interviews enable youto unearth what lies beneath the surfaceof a personal experience, a political opinion, an issue,situation, or process.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: This depth means that qualitative data collectiontends to take a long time.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: There are many different typesof interviews.Semi-structured qualitative interviewsare the most common type of interview,because you get the best of both worlds.You get a somewhat structured list of questions,so you cover the topics in a coherent organized manner,while maintaining the flexibilityto adapt the issues as they come to light in the interview.This interview type is particularly useful when

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: you're exploring a little known topic,because you can and should follow up interesting issuesas they arise.However, semi-structured interviewshave the drawback of potentially resultingin long and detailed audio data, which require a major effortto organize, transcribe, and analyze.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Closed-ended interviewsrely upon a fixed list of questionsthat all participants are asked in the same order and phrasing,and they select answers from a pre-defined group of responses.This style is useful if you want all your participantsto address the same questions.The obvious problem though is its inflexibility.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: Likewise, participants might feelconstrained if they can't fully elaborate their responses.Structured qualitative interviewsare best suited for the following circumstances.First, when you're working in a field of researchyou know quite well so that you knowwhat is and isn't important to ask about,and so you can come up with good structured interviewquestions in advance.Secondly, a situation when you're very short on time,

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: and you need to keep interviews tightlyfocused to avoid gathering any extra databeyond the bare essentials.Again, it's very important to keep in mindyour original research question when you'redeveloping these kinds of interviewsso you can focus on your interestareas that are most important.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Informational interviewsare directed towards a general interest areabut almost entirely are unstructured.Using your original research question for guidance,you select participants who are likely to be able to point youin the right direction for your research,with minimal expectations or assumptions about what issueswould be useful to discuss.This interview type can be valuable at an early stage

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: of research when you don't know very much about your topic.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: You need to think clearlyabout what you're trying to find out before you start writingyour interview questions.The following is a basic overviewof how you will arrive at your interview questions.First, follow your research question.[You Should - 1.Follow your research question] You obviouslyneed to start with a clear research focus,and you get this from your research question.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: Secondly, know the research field.[2. Know the research field] You should have read the keyliterature in your area of study,and you bring this to bear when you're designing your interviewquestions.Thirdly, consider your participants. [3.Consider your participants] Who could they be?What special insights would they be in position to provide?Next, begin crafting your interview questions,and when you're doing that, think of it

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: as an ongoing process that changes as you go along. [4.Begin crafting your interview questions] Next,test the questions. [5. Test the questions] Askyour supervisor and other experts in your field to reviewyour questions and give you advance feedback.As you start crafting your interview questions,make sure you cluster them by major groups and subgroupsaccording to some kind of logical categorization.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: You should pay careful attention to howyou phrase your questions and ensurethat they're clear and concise.Interviews evolve based on what you communicateprior to the interview, the questions you ask,the participant's willingness to speak and depth of knowledge,and experience and rapport between youand the participant.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: How you set up the interactionand carry it out plays a very big partin the ultimate success of the interview process.You would want to keep the following in mind--don't rush the interview.You always want to maintain focus and relevanceas the interview unfolds.Probe for depth and detail as new strings and elementsof interest arrive in the interview process.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: Keep it natural.Ask sensitive questions after establishing rapport.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: A basic overview of how the interview processbasically goes as follows-- you start with an introduction[Interview Process 1.Introduction] where you begin by introducing yourself.You thank the participant for coming to interview.You then describe your research and why you're doing it.[2. Describe your research] You then provide a brief overviewof the forthcoming interview and what's going to happen. [3.Brief overview of the forthcoming interview]You explain how the interview be structured so the participant

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: can be put at ease.You then actually start working through your interviewquestions. [4. Interview questions] Startoff gradually with basic questions the participant caneasily answer so the participant can feel comfortable and gainconfidence before you start to get into more complicatedor difficult questions.Then you have closure. [5. Closure] At the endof the interview, you want to end it with a genuine

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: and gracious thank you and an expression of how valuabletheir contribution has been at this really important point.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: It's also worthemphasizing that you should gain more depth and insightsduring the interview process by using digging strategies.As your interview develops, be preparedto follow up to seek fuller and more in-depth questionsand explanations.Qualitative interviews are designedto enable you to dig deeper and dig wider.You dig deeper when the participant has given you

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: an informative response, but you want to know more details.You dig wider when the participant hasgiven a vague or shallow response,and you are seeking more basic information about the context.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Now let's talk about focus groups a bit.So focus groups bring sets of participantstogether for a structured or semi-structured discussionabout a chosen topic.[Focus Groups]

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Focus groups provide a social settingand opportunity for participants to discussspecific topics, such as a new product or patient experiencesin hospitals.But they do it in an informal and supportive settingusing their own concepts, frames of reference, and vocabulary.The group interaction which focus groups facilitatecan help bring out new perspectives on issues

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: as participant's challenges emerge.You still guide the discussion, but ideallyby intervening as little as possible,the discussion will evolve naturally.Your decision about whether to use interviews and focus groupsshould be determined by your research question.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: With a focus group,you're gathering a group of peopletogether for a discussion that you'll be facilitating.This can be a daunting prospect.Your role within the focus group isto act as the moderator, also known as the facilitator.As the focus group moderator, youprovide the topic or specific questions for the participantsto discuss.You then facilitate the discussion

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: to ensure that all participants have an opportunity to speak.A reasonable target would be to have the moderator representless than 5% of the total words thatappear in the focus transcript at the end of the process.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Focus groups are most useful for topicsthat can be discussed openly with strangersand where multiple individual experiencesof the same or similar issues can be discussed openly.Controversial issues or sensitive issuesshould only be introduced after youand your supervisor have thought through all the challengesand alternative approaches.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: Controversial topics should also bediscussed under the moderation of experienced facilitatorsand with a clear set of ground rules putin place at the outset of the discussion.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Focus groups can alsobe challenging in terms of ensuring confidentiality,therefore you may need to adjust the kinds of confidentialityguarantees you offer participants whileat the same time asking all participants to respectthe privacy and confidentiality of their fellow participants.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: It is also important to ensurethat you have enough time to secure your desired venueand allow time for advertising and recruitingand the briefing of participants.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Just as with interviews,you select focus group participantsbased on a set of criteria that indicatestheir particular relevance for the study.A common question is how many participants should youhave within your focus group?You can run a focus group with between 3 and 12 participants,but I would generally recommend using around five to eight

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: participants in your group.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Where you hold your focusgroup is very important.You need a location that is quiet and conveniently locatedfor your participants.Think about other convenience and costissues such as the availability and cost of parking or publictransport when choosing your venue.The venue should have features such as physical accessibilityfor your participants, a room that allows everyone

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: to hear easily and that will be free from other kindsof interruptions.It should have easily accessible toilet facilities.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Focus groups can be held online,although there may be some barriers to conducting focusgroups effectively in this way.There are risks relating to technology.For example, the software might fail,you might have internet connectivity failures.And these kinds of interruptions can be a major problemif you're trying to do online focus groups.But the option can be really useful,

  • 11:03

    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: especially when participants are located in different citiesor countries or if they're not physically mobileor they have too busy a schedule to beable to come to a particular physical location at one time.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: As with semi-structured qualitativeinterviews, you will need to developa list of open-ended questions that you canuse to steer the discussion.Develop a plan that contains a detailed outline of your focusgroup structure.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Another useful thingyou can do within a focus group is to offer a focused activity.A focused activity involves participantsin addressing a relevant issue with minimal interventionfrom the researcher.Stimulus materials are really important to facilitatethis process.And this kind of activity can work wellat the very start of the focus group to ask as an ice breaker

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: to get your participants talking to each otheror further into the focus group to providea more detailed treatment of a particular topic.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: There are a numberof options for evaluating the effectiveness of your focusgroup.First, the moderator or observer's impressionsand observations of the focus groupcan be used to evaluate the process.Second, a brief questionnaire canoffer valuable insights into participant's perceptionsand what they feel they have gained from the focus group

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: experience.Third, if the focus group is recorded,then the moderator can review the recording and/or transcriptto assess the quality of the focus group dynamic.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: It's important for moderatorsand/or observers to take field notes about any potentiallyrelevant nonverbal activity that takes place during the focusgroup as well as noting points in the discussion to which theywould like to give special attentionwhen it comes to the analysis.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Giving participants a questionnaireor sending them a link to an online questionnaire laterthat day, asking them to briefly reflecton their experiences of taking part in the researchis a simple and cheap way of evaluating the session.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: You also need to think about debriefingyour focus group participants.So be sure to save time in your focus group planto have a final wrap-up discussionwith your participants in which you explainwhat is going to happen next with their data,the timeline for project write up,and any further communication they can expect from you.Meanwhile, invite questions and comments from your participants

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: and encourage them to get in touch at any pointif they have further questions, comments, and concerns.Ensure they have your contact detailsso they can do this very easily.[Recording Interviews and Focus Groups]

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Recording interviews and focus groupsshould be standard practice for researchesfor a number of reasons.Recordings will increase the accuracyof analyzed qualitative data, reducethe risk of biased memory, and biased selection of whichelements are noted down, and allow you to focus more fullyon engaging with participants.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: There are some times when you should notrecord your qualitative data.These kinds of occasions tend to arisewhen participants explicitly ask you not to recordor if you've not specifically sought permissionfrom the participant to record in advance of the actual focusgroup or interview.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Video recordingcan be useful if nonverbal communication will be includedin the analysis, but participantswill be more likely to object to video recordings, especiallyif personal or controversial topics are being discussed.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Prepare for and conductthe recording of your interviews or focusgroups using the following steps-- first,preparation before you meet the participant.You'll need a primary and backup recording device alongwith backup power supply in orderto be ready for the interview.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Second, setting upwhen you meet the participant.Set up your equipment quickly and discreetlywith minimal disruption.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Third, during the processof generating qualitative data, your equipmentneeds to be visible so you can ensure it's running properly.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Fourth, consider post-data gathering.Once you've completed the interview or focus group,immediately make a backup copy of the recording.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Also consider ways to makethe recording less intrusive.Make the recording of qualitative researchless intrusive by taking the following steps-- firstly,be familiar with the recording equipmentand practice with that equipment beforehand,learning all the settings before you do any interviews or focusgroups so you can be set up and ready to go very quickly.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Second, try to use as little recordingequipment as you can.Keep the size and quantity of equipment to a minimum.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: Third, use the right equipment.Be sure you have a good quality purpose-built recorderand microphone and a backup.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Storage of recorded dataposes potential issues for confidentiality.There are three main ways of protecting recorded datafrom unauthorized use.First, you can copy recorded datato an external storage device thatis not permanently connected to a computer,is kept in a secure location, and is password protected.The second method is to encrypt the data.

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    DR CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: There are many different types of encryption,and the technology is constantly evolving.The third method is to copy your datato a third-party server such as Dropboxor other cloud-based data storage option.

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    DR ERIC JENSEN: The main methods of qualitative data collectionused across the spectrum of social science disciplinesare interviews and focus groups.We've introduced you to these kinds of approaches,because they offer insights that can be gained that are unique.[Conclusion]

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    DR ERIC JENSEN [continued]: You can get A depth of understandingfrom this kind of method, from interviews and focus groups,that you can't get from other options like a survey.We've stressed the importance of preparationand remaining flexible when you'repreparing for your interview or your focus group.

  • 16:50

    DR CHARLES LAURIE: Qualitative researchinvolves a substantial investment of time,energy, and specialized skill in question design,carrying out the interviews or focus groups,and analyzing the data that you father.However, the insights that emerge from such researchcan more than justify this investmentand provide you with a real windowinto the lives and thinking of others.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Qualitative interviewing, Focus groups

Keywords: emergence; encryption; facilitators; practices, strategies, and tools

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Dr. Eric Jensen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, and Dr. Charles Laurie, Director of Research at Verisk Maplecroft, discuss best practices for conducting focus groups. As part of their explanation, they cover qualitative interview design, preparation and data collection methods.

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An Introduction to Interviews and Focus Groups

Dr. Eric Jensen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, and Dr. Charles Laurie, Director of Research at Verisk Maplecroft, discuss best practices for conducting focus groups. As part of their explanation, they cover qualitative interview design, preparation and data collection methods.

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