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Focus group conclusions

To avoid bias, it's best to have an outside evaluator, rather than your staff, identify strengths and weaknesses and evaluate outcomes. When interpreting focus group comments, consider the verbal context in which something was said and be wary when participants change or reverse their position after interaction with others. Responses that are specific and based on personal experiences should be given more weight than responses that are vague and impersonal.

View analyzed data from a distance until you see a larger picture and understand how this picture relates to the study’s central questions. Similar research may help you make sense of repeating ideas and larger themes. For example, you might identify underlying factors that explain the themes you have observed and then construct a logical chain of evidence. You might also describe an adaptive or maladaptive process that captures the behavior of respondents. If there are respondents who do not follow the usual pattern, it may be important to understand why. Qualitative researchers need to be flexible and open to the unexpected.

Interpreting qualitative data can be subjective, so verify your conclusions. Review your data repeatedly to check that your conclusions are grounded in what was said. Look at independent evidence from other sources and use other methods, such as surveys, interviews, or experiments, to verify your conclusions. To improve the study's reliability and validity, show your results to some of the focus group participants and ask them if you have accurately recorded what they meant.

Additional information

Berkowitz, S. (1997). Analyzing Qualitative Data. In J. Frechtling, L. Sharp, and Westat (Eds.), User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations (Chapter 4). Retrieved June 21, 2006 from National Science Foundation, Directorate of Education and Human Resources Web site: http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/EHR/REC/pubs/NSF97-153/CHAP_4.HTM

Seidel, J. V. (1998). Qualitative Data Analysis. Retrieved June 21, 2006 from: http://www.qualisresearch.com/QDA.htm

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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