Exchanging focus groups for individual interviews during qualitative data collection: a discussion

Baillie, Lesley (2019). Exchanging focus groups for individual interviews during qualitative data collection: a discussion. Nurse Researcher, 27(2)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7748/nr.2019.e1633


Background: Focus group data are created through interactions between participants while in individual interviews, the dialogue is between the participant and researcher, whose questions set the agenda. Focus groups and individual interviews are therefore used for different reasons and produce different data. However, sometimes researchers exchange focus groups for individual interviews, during data collection.

Aim: The aim is to discuss the rationale for focus groups, consider reasons for exchanging focus groups for interviews during qualitative data collection and any implications for research quality.

Discussion: The article first considers the unique features of focus groups and how these contrast with individual interviews. The reasons why individual interviews are added into studies designed for focus groups are then considered, based on the researcher’s experience and a selection of research studies. Researchers showed flexibility, adapting data collection plans to include particular individuals, but they could have provided a clearer rationale for using focus groups and for changing research designs during data collection.

Conclusion: Researchers should rationalise their choice of research methods and, to enhance quality, adopt a transparent and systematic approach with a clear account of the research process and explanations about any changes to original design plans,

Implications for practice: Researchers should recognise the differences between focus group and interview data, reflect on their rationale for using each method and justify data collection decisions. If recruitment is likely to be difficult, researchers intending to use focus groups could include individual interviews within their initial research design.

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