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The focus group research handbook. The focus group : research handbook. The Focus group research handbook. All rights reserved. Remember me on this computer. Cancel Forgot your password? Showing all editions for 'The focus group research handbook'. Year 1 2 13 Language English. Displaying Editions 1 - 10 out of Print book. The focus group : research handbook by Holly Edmunds.

The focus group research handbook by Holly Edmunds. We screened the titles and abstracts to identify only those relevant to conservation, biodiversity and ecology. Studies which had focused primarily on soil or water conservation and did not have a direct bearing on biodiversity conservation were discarded. We retrieved all the relevant papers and scanned the full text to check if they specifically used focus group discussion as a method to answer a research question.

All studies where the technique was merely mentioned in the introduction or conclusion section were eliminated. We developed a protocol Appendix S1 , Supporting Information for extracting data from the final list of studies. We conducted coding iterations to generate key conservation and biodiversity themes covered in the studies as described by Charmaz We reviewed the list to identify theme attributes e. Our final coding categories included the understanding of people's perspectives regarding conservation, assessment of conservation and livelihoods practices, examination of challenges and impacts of resource management interventions and documenting the value of indigenous knowledge systems.

It also helped to capture experiential differences in people with similar background thereby giving rise to new perspectives. In addition, focus group discussion often brought out issues of interest to participants rather than researchers. However, one study found the discussion biased in that all participants could not actively take part in discussions due to intimidation or influence by dominant or aggressive participants The studies had a median of 7 focus group discussion sessions, and there were no iterative focus groups in any study. The number of participants per focus group ranged from 2 to 21 with a median of 10 participants.

In the reviewed studies, two types of focus group discussion approaches were used.

About Focus Groups

The studies did not provide any rationale for conducting focus group discussion in either manner. In addition, most of the studies were based in rural communities within the developing countries with limited infrastructure for online access. Some of the studies offered incentives to potential group members e.

Four major themes emerged from the review Appendix S3. The contextual exploration of these themes is provided below. An overlap between themes was observed in some studies.


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Decisions in conservation management rely on evidence both scientific and experiential. Focus group discussion was used to examine impacts of conservation management interventions.


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It was useful in examining impacts of climate change and climate change adaptation measures Impacts of policy changes on the common pool resources, agriculture and rural development and participatory land use planning were also studied ; ; 58; As a data gathering process, focus group discussion relied on people's experiences and perceptions to generate anecdotal data.

Understanding people's perceptions are central to establishing how and why people respond to conservation issues in a certain way. Focus group discussion was mainly used to explore people's understanding, interpretation and legitimisation of biodiversity management initiatives and levels of support for such initiatives such as deer management, coastal resources management, the discourse around national parks and relationships with park authorities ; ; ; 86; Focus group discussions were also used to understand people's construction, notions, and interpretation of nature.

The studies explored the use of metaphors and mental constructions to drive environmental objectives and understanding of biodiversity issues by different groups ; ; ; In addition, focus group discussion provided insights into the variations in nature constructions based on age and location, for instance between younger and older people living in rural and urban areas The indigenous knowledge systems refer to the knowledge systems developed by a community as compared to conventional scientific knowledge Ajibade, These include cultural, medicinal and nutritional utilisation of a diversity of wild plants, medicinal plants, insects and birds ; ; ; ; 72; 73; 67; 61; 92; It was also used to explore the contribution of indigenous knowledge to agriculture and climate change adaptation such as rice Oryza glaberrima farming in Ghana, dairy farming in Ethiopia, and herb harvesting and sale in Nigeria ; ; Focus groups were instrumental in exploring the convergence of traditional knowledge and conventional scientific knowledge particularly in the management and conservation of fisheries Focus group discussions were used to assess the efficacy of biodiversity monitoring systems to improve natural resources management , and biodiversity conservation strategies to improve the quality of forest and marine ecosystems ; 33; 43; 9.

Furthermore, focus group discussions were used in the assessment of various livelihoods activities such as hunting, agriculture, natural resource extraction and consumption ; ; Apart from the core thematic areas discussed above, focus group discussion was also used sporadically in a range of contexts. Our comprehensive review showed that focus group discussion has been widely used in conservation research over the last two decades. The versatility and ease of use of the technique is demonstrated by the fact that it has been used in a range of contexts and in combination with other techniques.

Consequently, researchers must be clear on where it is appropriate or not, to deploy the technique. Participant recruitment and selection is a key phase in focus group discussion. However, we observed that the majority of the reviewed papers did not report their sampling and participant recruitment procedures.

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Most of the studies reviewed did not stratify or did not state whether they stratified their participants. For the few that did, they only considered gender as the main factor e. Although studies claimed that participants were community members, decision makers and stakeholders, it is not clear how the groups were defined, verified, and recruited as well as the relationship between sampling and representativeness e. There were a large number of studies in Africa and Asia. Natural resources are central to rural people's livelihoods in both these continents and norms and customs shape everyday forms of resource use Bisong, Throughout the review, we noted that rural residents were consulted on issues relating to human—wildlife conflicts, protected area management, participatory forest protection and natural resource exploitation.

Focus group discussion has had broad appeal as a research tool, as evidenced by this review. During this review, we observed that researchers in conservation have not adequately reported on the methodological choices from planning to data analysis.

The Focus Group Research Handbook by Holly Edmunds (ebook)

This is a concern as it gives the false impression that focus group discussion technique is not a rigorous method for data collection. The most compelling reason for using focus group discussion is the need to generate discussion or debate about a research topic that requires collective views and the meanings that lie behind those views including their experiences and beliefs e. In such situations, participants may not discuss their feelings and opinions freely or hesitate to participate in the topic of interest to the researcher.

Geographic proximity is an important consideration for researchers with resources constraints in developing nations.

Conducting a Focus Group

The technique was popular among researchers working within strict timelines, and requiring rapid and resource efficient way of gathering information about complex relationships Under resources constraining conditions, focus group discussion technique minimises travelling between locations and avails a large amount of data within a limited time frame compared to an equivalent number of interviews. However, this setup can also be a disadvantage since the group is not conducted in a natural atmosphere or where the researcher is not located close to the study site.

In most of the studies we reviewed, participants were collected in one location and were prepared in advance for the discussion around a topic rather than meeting them in their usual places of work or residence. This arrangement might have the effect of introducing participant expectations and biases, including strategic group biases e.

The value of focus group discussions can be seen in researching communities with high mobility and hence the difficulty in sampling and organising meetings in specific locations. Where such communities or research subjects are involved, researchers are faced with uncertain and unpredictable patterns of movement and hence participant participation.

Researching such communities requires additional preparation and resources which might not be readily available to student researchers. It is therefore important to critically think about the nature and occupation of the research subjects well before setting out to use focus group discussion.

We noted that none of the studies mentioned the extent of facilitator engagement or involvement. This is a concern since facilitation is central to unbiased data collection. Our experiences from recent fieldwork point to the difficulty of having an incomplete team in collecting the data. We, therefore, recommend that future users pay adequate attention to recruiting an experienced facilitator team while planning to use this technique and include the additional cost to the research project see recommendations on facilitator skills. Our review indicates that the researchers often set out to explore topics of their interest and worked with the participants to explore, present, negotiate and evaluate the research problems and findings e.

While this is the normal structure of a research project, especially those based on a priori hypothesis, the value of the focus group discussions for such studies is diminished. In most cases, the range of topics that participants feel comfortable discussing may not be what the researcher intends to explore. Furthermore, some topics may be more difficult to discuss among some categories of participants than others e. Our experiences in using the technique indicate that restricting participants to the topic of researcher's interest constraints creativity and encourages conformity and strategic biases.

The aims of the research might also determine the extent to which the researcher can allow the participants to address issues that are perceived as particularly relevant to them, rather than those chosen by the researcher e. Focus group discussion is a flexible technique and is adaptable at any stage of the research.

Compared to more conventional techniques such as individual interviews and surveys, focus group discussion offers an opportunity to explore issues that are not well understood or where there is little prior research on the topic e. This is because, focus group discussion builds on the group dynamics to explore the issues in context, depth and detail, freely without imposing a conceptual framework compared with a structured individual interview e.

CD31; ; CD5; Our field experiences point to the fact that such dynamics and the process of sharing and comparing understandings and views mean that the focus group discussion can yield more insights than the equivalent number of individual interviews. Researchers can hugely benefit from the group context since it provides insight into social relations, and the information obtained reflects the social and overlapping nature of knowledge better than a summation of individual narratives through interviews and surveys.

However, focus group participants are sometimes reluctant to deal with sensitive topics in a discussion setting compared with an individual interview or a survey Researchers must be aware of this constraint when planning and framing the group discussion questions. Under such circumstances, focus groups discussion can be used alongside other techniques within the context of mixed methods approach. Triangulating the results with two or more different methods, in a complementary way can offer an opportunity to draw conclusions from such a focus group.

A clear rationale should provide the readers with confidence that the selection of data sources, the analysis and the interpretation is reliable and valid and that the quality of research is not compromised Wilson, , p. Focus on facilitator skills: Focus group discussion relies on facilitators or moderators to guide the group's discussion Berg, ; Morgan, Here is a suggested skill set: a Ability to build rapport by creating a warm, supportive and comfortable environment to foster open and honest dialogue among diverse groups and individuals.

It is subject to the biases which are commonly encountered in any group setting. Ensure a clear pathway between the data obtained, coding and subsequent analysis of data: The review revealed that out of studies used focus group discussion alongside other techniques in the same study.

Research Methodology

In most of these studies, it was extremely difficult to tease out what component of the results and inferences were derived from the focus group discussion alone. Providing this information might enable the reader to make a clear connection between the research question asked, results obtained and subsequent analysis. The evidence suggests a rapid growth in the application of focus group discussion technique in biodiversity research.

The current review might be useful for academics and practitioners keen to apply focus group discussion in their research and conservation practise. Tom Finch is thanked for comments on the draft. All authors have read and edited the manuscript.