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Abstract

Focus groups are useful tools for examining perceptions, feelings, and suggestions about topics, products, or issues. Typically, focus groups are held in formal facilities with “strangers” or participants who do not know each other. Recent work suggests that “friendship groups” may provide an innovative alternative for collecting group-level qualitative data. This approach involves recruiting a single “source participant” who hosts a group in his/her home and recruits friends possessing the characteristics desired for the study. In order to examine the feasibility of friendship groups as a defensible research methodology, we conducted a series of four friendship groups as a feasibility study. Our analysis examined data from questionnaires about demographics, levels of acquaintanceship, and experience taking part in the group; transcripts; observational data; and the time and costs for recruiting. Using these data, we examined group dynamics, implementation issues, and recruitment time and costs. Based on these analyses, our study determined that friendship groups have the potential to be a viable and cost-effective method of qualitative inquiry.

Keywords

Focus Groups, Qualitative Research Methodology, Friendship Groups, Recruitment

Author Bio(s)

Chandria D. Jones, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a Westat Senior Study Director and qualitative researcher working in the areas of behavioral health, obesity, health disparities, and health communications. Trained in epidemiology and behavioral and community health, her research focuses on social and environmental determinants of health for vulnerable populations such as minorities, low-income youth and families, and individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. She has worked on research projects for federal agencies such as Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and National Cancer Institute (NCI) and for foundations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and JPB Foundation. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: chandriajones@westat.com.

Jocelyn Newsome, Ph.D., is a Westat Senior Study Director with expertise in qualitative research and analysis. She utilizes qualitative methods such as cognitive testing, behavior coding, and focus groups in survey design. She is a RIVA-trained focus group moderator and has conducted research for many federal agencies, including FDA, NCI, and the IRS. Drawing upon this experience, she recently co-authored a book chapter on the use of qualitative methods in quantitative research. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jocelynnewsome@westat.com.

Kerry Levin, Ph.D. is a Westat Vice President and survey methods researcher with expertise in qualitative design, analysis, and implementation. She is an experienced focus group moderator and expert in cognitive testing and survey design. As a trained social psychologist, much of her research focuses on how individuals retrieve, process and comprehend information. She works with many federal agencies including the FDA, IRS, and NCI. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: kerrylevin@westat.com.

Amanda Wilmot, B.Sc. is a Westat Senior Study Director with more than 30 years of professional experience in survey research. She is part of Westat’s Instrument Design, Evaluation, and Analysis (IDEA) Services group. She specializes in combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies to inform the development, testing, and evaluation of survey instruments. Ms. Wilmot has a particular interest in and experience with cross-national data collection and instrument design. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: amandawilmot@westat.com.

Jennifer Anderson McNulty, B.S. is a Westat survey methods researcher with 4 years of experience in qualitative research and analysis. She has experience designing, conducting, and analyzing cognitive testing efforts, and is also a RIVA trained focus group moderator. Trained in community health, she’s worked on research projects about fitness and tobacco-related health. She has worked with many federal agencies such as the FDA, IRS, and NCI. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jennifermcnulty@westat.com.

Teresa Kline, M.A. is a survey methods researcher and cultural anthropologist with 5 years of experience in qualitative research and ethnographic theory. She has experience designing and conducting cognitive testing, and is a RIVA trained focus group moderator. She has worked with federal agencies such as the FDA and the Census Bureau. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: teresakline@westat.com.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Dr. Cynthia Robbins, Nataly Johanson, and Betsy Lopez for their assistance with data collection, analysis, and review.

Publication Date

1-6-2018

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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