Focus groups are increasingly a favoured method in the social sciences. There are pros and cons of using this method, particularly when investigating highly sensitive topics. Write an essay on the benefits and challenges of using focus groups for conducting social research on sensitive topics. To do this, you should source a focus group study that was conducted in the last 5 years on a sensitive issue (for example, rape, domestic violence, AIDS, child sexual abuse etc). Critically evaluate the use of focus groups as a method for this particular study, highlighting both the strengths and weaknesses of this method for carrying out this particular research, and coming to an informed conclusion about the methodology. Use academic sources to support your discussion throughout
Research provides the opportunity of studying a specific topic in depth and gather immense knowledge about it. Hence to quench the thirst of knowledge research is the best option. Now, the research methods can be of different types. Sometimes the research works are entirely dependent upon laboratory based results while in other cases surveying people with specific attributes is the method of deriving result on a particular topic. When people are made part of the study directly, they are used as the focus group. Having a focus group is particularly essential and effective in researching on sensitive issues in the social sector (Bryman, 2015). This assignment explores the concept of social research method with emphasis put on the utilities and advantages of using focus group as well as the disadvantages of it with analyzing one of the chosen recent papers on a chosen sensitive social issue.
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The term ‘Focus Group’ was originally used for the market study researches but as the days pass by it is becoming an essential part for the social science study also. In 1946 Merton and Kendall first used this word for the area of social science. Focus Group study is one type of qualitative survey method. It contains mainly 6-12 individuals who are interviewed on the basis of their experiences. These experiences can be various sensitive issues like rape, AIDS, child sexual abuse, domestic violence or human trafficking etc. Generally this study can be performed in three ways. First method is single and two way method (Neuman, 2014).
In single process, one focus group is involved but in two way method two types of focus groups are associated where one group is victim group and the others discuss victim’s painful stories. The second method is dual moderator method which includes one focus group but two different types of moderators or monitors. One type of moderators asks different questions and others observe whether any questions are left out or not. The last focus group method is very modern technology based. It is carried out via tele-conference or online interview through Skype.
The focus group method consists of both some advantages and disadvantages. First let’s discuss about its advantages especially in case of social sensitive cases. This process is less time consuming, less costly method. It has no boundary on age, social economic status, country or sex. Through this study, we can know about various problems faced by young people. Different people from different countries, social status can share their difficulties of lives. It is an easy approach to gather concrete information from question answer interactions. It helps to express and also understand the feelings and opinions of the victims. This procedure gives a wide area to the world to know about these sensitive incidents through news, papers, journals etc (Bernard, 2012).
Apart from these advantages there are some disadvantages present in this technique. Researchers are fully dependant on the participants. Sometimes the moderators are not enough experts to control any off situation and to collect the data. Often participants become less cooperative due to their mental stress or family pressures. Use of online focus group retains another type of disadvantages like sudden power cut, any internet service related technical difficulties or involvement of technology-shy participants. To carry out a focus group study should include some planning or working protocols.
The study of Krueger (1994) briefly explained the necessary questions step by step. At first the researchers should know why they are doing this case study, what type of information can be helpful or needed how they can be used in the study. They should also thoroughly know about the background of their group of participants. They should have knowledge about the places where the interviews will be carried out and the quality of questions what are they going to ask. These questions, conditions are all vital for conducting any focus group study (Ragin, 2010).
The word ‘Rape’ comes from Latin word ‘repere’ which means ‘to grab or to snatch’. It is one type of sexual assault where forcefully physical and sexual intercourse happens. Both men and women can be of rape victims but rape incidents of female victims are mostly reported and recorded worldwide. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation (2012), rape means forcefully penetration of the vagina or anus with male organ part or any object, or forcefully oral penetration with sexual organ. Sometimes the victims are conscious or drugged. Several social science studies are conducted by using these rape victims as focus group (Banks, 2015).
The survey work on the relationship between post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD) and daily alcohol consumption after rape reported by Amy Cohn and others in 2014 used the rape victims as a focus group. The work revealed that there was a correlation between negative effects of these circumstances PTSD and the amount of alcohol intake. The work involved a large focus group from the age of 18 to 65 years consisting of approximately 60 women who were raped before. It was continued for 14 days (Cohn, 2014).
For completing this work the researchers chose the focus group to be a mix of all types of women irrespective of their colour or race. For this purpose, Amy Cohn and others took to some measurable techniques and considered alcohol consumption, post traumatic stress disorder symptomatology, IVR procedures etc as the measures of the study. The findings from this work have been presented in the form of tables in the main work.
The question and, interactions occurred between the researchers and the participants. The participants were chosen on the basis of different criterion such as their age, time gap between those incidences and present day, mental stability etc. They were asked on the daily basis through direct or online interactions. The data of the study were recorded and divided according to their daily alcohol intake, any disorder after alcohol consumption and post-traumatic stress disease. Just like other focus group study, it started with a telephonic conversation. After that direct interaction was performed (Hagman, 2014).
This focus study also contains some advantages and disadvantages. In this study a very large cooperative group of people were engaged. A very ample of detailed information or data was collected. Different people from different age group expressed their experiences. Some females were coped up with the situations but others freely told about their crisis. Different variables like their moods, psychological states were easily described in this study. This work simultaneously helped to stop a vast number of female rape victims who were just entering into the destructive world of alcohol. This work encouraged them to come back into positive side of the life by rehabilitation. The disadvantages of the work includes 54 participants were very cooperative but 6 women could not continue the daily conversation. This lack of data was a big fault of the experiment (Moore, 2014).
The study also failed to describe whether rape was the cause of drinking habits or they were already present. Sometimes questions could be too personal or painful to be remembered. There could be some differences in personalities of the participants which could hamper the quality of the work. In case of rape or any other sensitive issues, the fear of social disclosure is a very common aspect. So during the conversation it could be a major problem. Hence data analysis is the main part of the work as lack of data quality, amount, and lack of data design are the main cons of the total result (May, 2011).
The classic advantages of implementing focus group were evident in this research work with regard to identifying the change in behaviour of the concerned people regardless of the complexity and difference in approach. The problem situations were analyzed in such way that, potential solutions could also be given to them to deal with the current situation. The information received directly from the females have provided a better provision into wider variety of information than other sources.
Though less costly, it took quite a longer time to finish as irrelevant discussions emerged quite naturally during talking that could have distracted the main focus and objective of the study. Also, disagreement might have worked against the course of research work. Now even though the work is finished its validity and dependability is still in question as the results will not be replicable (Wilkinson, 2011).
As conclusion it can be said that focus group study for social problems is a very strategic and social awakening process. It narrates us the true picture of our society. How the women and children are safe or unsafe in this world. It describes different feelings, opinions of different people from all the socio-economic status. At one time it helps to give a full picture on any social crime very easily because of its cost effectiveness and less time consuming process. Hence, from the point of view of social research method, it would be beneficial and advantageous to use focus group. The disadvantages cannot be overlooked either. But it is the expertise and presence of mind of the researchers which would help in overcoming those and render the whole research work effective and efficient.
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Cohn, A., Hagman, B. T., Moore, K., Mitchell, J., & Ehlke, S. (2014). Does negative affect mediate the relationship between daily PTSD symptoms and daily alcohol involvement in female rape victims? Evidence from 14 days of interactive voice response assessment. Psychology of addictive behaviors
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