I’m about to start a large scale project, one that will be primarily qualitative (it may end up being a mixed methods study; time will tell); I’m in the planning stages with the PI now.  I’ve done qualitative studies before–how could I not with all the time I’ve been an evaluator?  My go to book for qualitative data analysis has always been Miles and Huberman miles and huberman qualitative data (although my volume is black).  This is their second edition published in 1994.  I loved that book for a variety of reasons: 1) it provided me with a road map to process qualitative data; 2) it offered the reader an appendix for choosing a qualitative software program (now out of date); and 3) it was systematic and detailed in its description of display.  I was very saddened to learn that both the authors had died and there would not be a third edition.  Imaging my delight when I got the Sage flier of a third edition! Qualitative data analysis ed. 3  Of course I ordered it.  I also discovered that Saldana (the new third author on the third edition) has written another book on qualitative data that he sites a lot in this third edition (Coding manual for qualitative researchers coding manual--johnny saldana) and I ordered that volume as well.

Saldana, in the third edition, talks a lot about data display, one of the three factors that qualitative researchers must keep in mind.  The other two are data condensation and conclusion drawing/verification.  In their review, Sage Publications says, “The Third Edition’s presentation of the fundamentals of research design and data management is followed by five distinct methods of analysis: exploring, describing, ordering, explaining, and predicting.”  These five chapters are the heart of the book (in my thinking); that is not to say that the rest of the book doesn’t have gems as well–it does.  The chapter on “Writing About Qualitative Research” and the appendix are two.  The appendix (this time) is an “An Annotated Bibliography of Qualitative Research Resources”, which lists at least 32 different classifications of references that would be helpful to all manner of qualitative researchers.  Because it is annotated, the bibliography provides a one sentence summary of the substance of the book.  A find, to be sure.   Check out the third edition.

I will be attending a professional development session with Mr. Saldana next week.  It will be a treat to meet him and hear what he has to say about qualitative data.  I’m taking the two books with me…I’ll write more on this topic when I return.  (I won’t be posting next week).




Welcome back!   For those of you new to this blog–I post every Tuesday, rain or shine…at least I have for the past 6 weeks…:) I guess that is MY new year’s resolution–write here every week; on Tuesdays…now to today’s post…

What one thing are you going to learn this year about evaluation?

Something about survey design?

OR logic modeling?

OR program planning?

OR focus groups?focusgroups

OR…(fill in the blank and let me know…)

A colleague of mine asked me the other day about focus groups.

Specifically, the question was, “What makes a good focus group question?”

I went to Dick Krueger and Mary Anne Casey’s book (Focus Groups, 3rd ed. Sage Publications, 2000).  On page 40, they have a section called “Qualities of Good Questions”. These make sense.They say: Good questions…

focus group book--krueger

  1. …sound conversational
  2. …use words participants would use.
  3. …are easy to say.
  4. …are clear.
  5. …are short.
  6. …are open-ended.
  7. …are one dimensional.
  8. …include good directions.

Let’s explore these a bit.

  1. Since focus groups are a social experience (albeit, a data gathering one), conversational questions help set an informal tone.
  2. If participants don’t/can’t understand your questions (because you use jargon, technical terms, etc.), you won’t get good information. Without good information, your focus group will not help answer your inquiry.
  3. You don’t want to stumble over the words, so avoid complicated sentences.
  4. Make sure your participants know what you are asking. Long introductions can be confusing, not clarifying. Messages may be mixed and thus interpreted in different ways. All this results information that doesn’t answer your inquiry.
  5. Like being clear, short questions tend to avoid ambiguity and yield good data.
  6. To quote Dick and Mary Anne, “Open-ended questions are a hallmark of focus group interviewing.” You want an opinion. You want an explanation. You want rich description. Yes/No doesn’t give you good data.
  7. Using synonyms add richness to questioning–using synonyms confuses the participant. Confused participants yields ambiguous data. Avoid using synonyms–keep questions one-dimensional keeps questions clear.
  8. Participants need clear instructions when asked to do something in the focus group.  “Make a list” needs to have “on the piece of paper in front of you” added.  A list in the participants head may get lost and you loose the data.

Before you convene your focus group, make sure you have several individuals (3 – 5) who are similar to and not included in your target audience review the focus group questions. It is always a good idea to pilot any question you use to gather data.

Ellen Taylor-Powell (at University of Wisconsin Extension) has a Quick Tips sheet on focus groups for more information. To access it go to: http://www.uwex.edu/ces/pdande/resources/pdf/Tipsheet5.pdf