The experience of focus group and semi-structured interview were gained during my data collection research. I conducted one focus group and one semi-structured interviews, due to participants time limit and busy schedule I was not possible to conduct more interviews. I have designed the interview procedure including questions prepared for each interview to capture different group and individual. I have given participants consent form to sign and ask for their permission to audio tape recorder, simultaneously I was taking note. This type of interview was more suitable for my data collection research because it allowed face to face assurance and explanation of the importance, aim, and necessity of the research. I have enjoyed the interview exercise and my learning reflection about data collection process is addressed below.
How well did the research instrument address the research questions and meet the goals of the study? Using focus group and semi-structured interview instruments to collect data helped keeping track of what I observed and how to analyse it. Methods of recording information gathered during focus groups and interview for collecting unbiased information have helped to gain credibility as an accurate and useful source of information collection. Focus group and semi- structured interviews were effective in communicating a desire to obtain meaningful and honest information, both instruments were well designed that helped the conversation develop in line with my research questions.
I was able to use technique for collecting data as a combination of an audio tape recorder and note taking which allow me to capture all of the essential information in an unbiased manner, I was also able to capture nonverbal behaviour of group participants, i.e. reactions of other participants after a participant statement may indicate consensus or disagreement. Both instruments are valid and reliable in collecting data, and questions and observations accurately assess what I want to know.
What specific advantages and disadvantages can you see from using this particular method? Semi-structured individual interviews are more efficient than focus groups and interviewers are typically able to cover more ground interviewing one person versus a group. While focus groups may actually get less information than one hour individual interview, the dynamic interchange between the group members may result in more in depth and unbiased information concerning a particular topic. A potential weakness of focus groups may occur when members do not express their personal opinions and conform to a popular opinion or agree to a particular group member. In semi-structured interview there is no significant time delay between question and answer, the interviewer and interviewee can directly react on what the other says or does.
An advantage of this communication is that the answer of the interviewee is more spontaneous, without an extended reflection. But due to this type of communication, the interviewer must concentrate much more on the questions to be asked and the answers given. Especially when semi-structured interview list is used, and the interviewer has to formulate questions as a result of the interactive nature of communication. Interview also has the advantage that the interviewer can make more use of a standardisation of the situation. On the other hand this type of communication of time and place can bring with it a lot of time and costs. Social interaction in the focus group provides more free and complex answers, interviewer can ask for clarification, problems as to whether the group represents a larger population and difficult to assemble the group.
What issues did you face in data collection and compilation? In my situation, I needed to obtain an appropriate permission or approval to collect information from the senior management of the company I have done my research on. I had to allow time to work through the proper channels and it was stressful process to know whether they will provide me with an approval to conduct my interviews and collect data. One of the problems encountered by me was the limited time allocated as the questionnaires were process oriented and it took time to complete some of the questionnaires while each interview was allocated 45 minutes only, in addition, the geographical location of the company was presented a difficulty as I had to travel more than 30 minutes to reach the company’s premises.
I had to visit the company twice to conduct a focus group with one team and a semi-structured interview with another team manager. I believe there is no issue in data integrity or accuracy that was provided to me by the team during both interviews. However, compilation of data has been time consuming process due to documenting all notes taking as well as referring to the audio tape recorder to ensure that I haven’t missed anything out. I did not encounter any non-response or outright refusal from the participants. The response from the leaders and officials was also encouraging.
How would you change the research instrument based on the data you collected? I believe the answers I have got are as good as the questions I asked, I may need to expand on my research instruments techniques and get the best answers that fit my questions, or follow formative research process that will help me think through which questions I want to ask of which people. For example, asking good questions of the wrong people or asking the right people bad questions will provide me poor and unusable results.
Even if focus group and semi-structured interviews are the best method for collecting my data, I will consider changing how to do them, collecting the best data possible is to separate research instruments into smaller rounds instead of trying to get all answer for the questions at once. Later rounds can build on information from earlier rounds. For example, I would use one round of the interview to help me determine a target group, understand their roles, skills and knowledge around using systems and processes and then a second round to investigate more deeply into the group’s thoughts and feelings.
What lessons have you learned about collecting data? I believe collecting data for this study or MRP research is way more stressful than other data collection I have experienced. First of all, the stakes are higher, if I don’t get it right I will continue to be in purgatory. All what I needed is to hear from my potential participants about whether they are participating in my research study. I got tons of questions from the senior management asking details of the research study and proposal. This, however, does not mean that they are going to participate in my study. So, I had to be very careful about how I answer their questions and how to interact with them. I learned to be always prepared to get tones of questions. I also had to send my participants a reminder about the date and time of the interviews and accommodate them, otherwise they will forget as they are busy people.
I learned to keep my spirit high, and I needed to remind myself that things are going to be OK. I needed to continue providing information, checking in, reminding, answering questions, sending e-mails, making phone calls, and running my research study with a smile on my face. Even though I was exhausted, tried to keep my energy high, and didn’t let my participants feel the stress I felt inside. At the end, I was grateful to have each and every participant I had and enjoyed the experience with them. And finally I learned to be patient, collecting data is a slow process and I was focusing on how to achieve the big goal of interviewing participants and collecting data, while I forget to pay attention to what I achieve everyday towards getting my data collection complete.
What thoughts do you have about the importance and relevance of your project based on the data collection experience? Data collected during the focus group and interview is adequate to be analysed for my process improvement project purpose and to make decisions about important issues. I will be able to present findings and analysis based on data collected from interviews and that subsequent decisions based on arguments embodied in the findings are valid. Data collection process will help my project identifying area for improvements, analysing and assessing the importance of systems and processes.
Quality and type of data play a vital role in supplying objective information for the problems in process improvement project so that some analytical understanding of the problems and hence solutions can be obtained. Making decision on the basis of poor quality data is risky and may lead to disastrous results. My project requires data that is valid and reliable, and in this study data was collected using a variety of research methods, such as interview and focus group were participants debriefed to ensure interpretive validity in order to determine if data was being interpreted correctly.
Courtney from Study Moose
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