Focus Groups

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Overview
Focus groups are an established and accepted research technique for qualitative explorations of attitudes, opinions, perceptions, motivations, constraints, participation, and behaviors. Focus groups are group-depth interviews in which a small group of participants (8 to 12) are interviewed at length about select subjects. The use of focus groups provides researchers with insights, new hypotheses, and understanding through the process of interaction. They allow for extensive probing, follow-up questions, group discussion, and observation of emotional reaction not possible in a quantitative study such as a telephone or mail survey. Focus groups allow analyses of thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and opinions that have a high level of content validity (Babbie, 2006). However, because these results are on small numbers of individuals, the conclusions rest on face validity and rely on the depth of analysis rather than breadth of analysis. Focus group research, as does all qualitative research, sacrifices reliability, or the ability to replicate results, for the sake of increased validity.
Responsive Management conducts focus groups using textbook-quality research methodology for qualitative research. An experienced, trained moderator leads the focus groups, as unobtrusively as possible, through a discussion guide and looks for new insights into why individuals feel the way they do about particular issues. The preferred methodology for most focus groups is formal with one-way mirrors that allow for inconspicuous observation of focus group participants (Krueger 1988; Frey & Fontana, 1994) at established and approved focus group facilities. Focus groups are audio and video recorded allowing for later review and analysis of the focus groups by the moderator and other research associates. For a complete discussion of the uses of focus group research, see Morgan and Krueger (1997).
Discussion Guide
Focus groups are conducted using a discussion guide. The discussion guide allows for consistency in data collection and keeps the focus group discussion within the designed parameters. Responsive Management develops discussion guides based on close cooperative input from our clients and our previous knowledge and expertise in the field of natural resources and outdoor recreation.
Focus Group Moderation
The focus group methodology employed by Responsive Management is to have a moderator conduct a 1- to 2 hour discussion on the topic to be explored. The role of the moderator is to keep the discussion within designed parameters without exerting a strong influence on the discussion content. In this sense, focus groups are non-directive group discussions and expose spontaneous attitudes of small groups.
Analysis of Focus Groups
The analysis of focus groups is an iterative process. Data are categorized into units of meaning using the method of constant comparison (Glaser & Strauss, 1971). For example, the moderator takes notes and observations at the time of the focus group. Later, themes within those notes are reexamined, challenged, amended, and/or confirmed using transcribed audio tapes. Review of the videotapes allows for a second level of review to examine, analyze, and evaluate the data gathered from the notes and the audio tapes. Finally, all members of the research team then participate in a review and interpretation where the assembled data are again reexamined, analyzed, evaluated, and confirmed.
Responsive Management Experience
Responsive Management has extensive experience in the use of qualitative research on natural resource and outdoor recreation issues. Responsive Management has conducted almost 1,000 quantitative and qualitative projects over the past 18 years. Responsive Management has conducted more focus groups on more natural resource and outdoor recreation issues than any other firm in the world. For almost 25 years, Mark Damian Duda has employed focus groups into his research methodology and clients consistently benefit from his expertise. Clients include the federal natural resource and land management agencies, most state fish and wildlife agencies, state departments of natural resources, environmental protection agencies, state park agencies, tourism boards, as well as most of the major conservation and sportsmen's organizations. Many of the nation's top universities use Responsive Management for data collection because they recognize the quality of Responsive Management's data services. Responsive Management's success in the qualitative research field, and in focus group facilitation in particular, comes from our expertise and strong efforts in discussion guide design, methodology, and moderator experience. Because Responsive Management specializes in researching only natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, our senior research staff and research associates conduct focus groups only on these topics and understand the nuances involved in conducting such research.

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RM Conducts:
Telephone Surveys
Mail Surveys
Focus Groups
Personal Interviews
Park/Outdoor Recreation Intercepts
Web-Based Surveys
Needs Assessments
Programmatic Evaluations
Literature Reviews
Data Collection for Universities and Researchers
RM Develops:
Marketing Plans
Communications Plans
Business Plans
Policy Analysis
Public Relations Plans

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