StATS: Using focus groups to bridge the gap between research and practice (December 14, 2006). Category: Qualitative data analysis

The Injury Prevention journal published a nice article on how to use focus groups to bridge the research-practice gap,

along with an associated commentary,

This is a very nice article with the full free text available on the web. It has an excellent bibliography and many of the references also have full free text on the web. The authors followed a series of steps that they argue can be readily generalized to other safety issues:

  1. Prepare systematic reviews of the existing literature,
  2. Compile a list of proposed interventions
  3. Reduce the list to a manageable number
  4. Meet with interested parties
  5. Verify meeting summaries with participants
  6. Fill in remaining gaps with personal interviews, and
  7. Develop an action plan based on the input provided.

The authors discussed the concept of "saturation." How many focus groups do you need to convene? The answer is dependent on the input you get at successive meetings. When "the same points are reiterated in all groups and ideas become repetitive" then saturation has occurred and you have a sufficient sample size. The authors cite a rule of them that six meetings are needed to reach saturation. In the paper, the authors mention that four meetings were initially planned, they determined that sufficient saturation had not occurred so they scheduled two additional meetings.

The authors stressed the importance of striking a balance between presenting theoretical findings and listening to practical barriers. The authors noted that

The collective knowledge of participants provided many local insights unlikely to emerge in conventional research. Discussion topics covered key partners and sectors to include when planning a program; national policies and programs that could be used to drive the agenda; potential sources of funding; the importance of providing and installing appropriate smoke alarms; targeting of programs; and suggestions for gaining access to hard-to-reach populations.

This article makes a strong argument for the value of qualitative information and offers a good model for how to use focus groups to collect this information.

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