Edited by Helle Neergaard and Claire Leitch
Chapter 11: Conducting a focus group using group support system (GSS) software
Advances in information technology and computer communication networks have provided opportunities to enhance focus group research (Klein et al. 2007). In this chapter we examine the use of GSS software to help overcome some of the potential limitations associated with traditional face-to-face focus groups. In the following chapter the use of technology in conducting focus group research will be taken a step further when the advantages/disadvantages of online focus groups are examined. While there are many advantages associated with the use of traditional focus groups as a qualitative research method, they also have a number of potential disadvantages. First, because only one person can talk at a time there is a limit to the number of thoughts participants can express in the time available. This has been referred to as ‘production blocking’ (Aiken et al. 1994) or ‘air fragmentation’ (Klein et al. 2007). As noted by Valacich et al. (1992: 51–2): ‘group members who are prevented from verbalizing their ideas as they occur may forget . . . them . . . at a later time’; ‘when waiting to verbalize an idea, group members focus on remembering that idea, rather than generating new ideas’; and ‘listening to other members speak may preclude generating new ideas’. Second, lack of anonymity may result in some focus group participants being reluctant to express their views, particularly if they feel those views are not universally shared by other members of the group (referred to as ‘evaluation apprehension’ – Aiken et al. 1994).
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