Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Focused Group Interviews as an Innovative Quanti-Qualitative Methodology (QQM): Integrating Quantitative Elements into a Qualitative Methodology

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Focused Group Interviews as an Innovative Quanti-Qualitative Methodology (QQM): Integrating Quantitative Elements into a Qualitative Methodology

Article excerpt

There is a sharp divide between quantitative and qualitative methodologies in the social sciences. We investigate an innovative way to bridge this gap that incorporates quantitative techniques into a qualitative method, the "quanti-qualitative method" (QQM). Specifically, our research utilized small survey questionnaires and experiment-like activities as part of the question route in a series of five focused group interviews on nutrition education. We show how these quantitative-type activities fit naturally with our question route and contributed to testing the hypotheses within the context of the five important characteristics of focused group interviews. The innovative use of QQM in focused group interviews makes data analysis easier and more transparent and permits collection of richer, more multifaceted data in a cost-effective fashion. Key Words: Focus Groups, Qualitative-Quantitative Methodology, QQM, and Qualitative Hypothesis Testing

The divide between quantitative (positivistic) and qualitative (interpretive) social science methodologies is so dramatic that Andrew Abbott (2001) chose Chaos of Disciplines as the title for his book on the evolution of this chasm. Previous attempts to reconcile the perspectives have focused on using one method to complement the other, often called triangulation (Denzin, 1970). This article describes a different approach to bridging this gap. Rather than focusing on the complementarity of the methods, we propose a more direct integration of the methods. Specifically, this article reports on the strategic use of quantitative techniques as part of a qualitative method. This "quanti-qualitative" methodology should not be confused with other more widely-used techniques such as the quantitative coding of qualitative texts (e.g., Grim, Finke, Harris, Meyers, & VanEerden, 2006) to produce such things as complex indices (e.g., Grim & Finke, 2006). Where such coding is a posterior process that extracts quantitative measures or categorical summaries from existing qualitative data, the quanti-qualitative methodology strategically plans for quantitative data collection as an integral part of a qualitative process. Accordingly, we define Quanti-Qualitative Methodology (QQM) as,

* the strategic incorporation of quantitative techniques into a qualitative method in such a way as to make the results more empirically transparent.

We will demonstrate QQM using a focused group interview study we planned in fall 2002 and carried out in spring 2003.

Integrating Quantitative Elements into a Qualitative Methodology

A "focused group interview" (Merton, Fiske, & Kendall, 1990) is a qualitative method in which researchers interactively question a group of participants in order to test theory-driven hypotheses. The term focused group interview is useful as a way of distinguishing academic from market research uses of focus groups. Some market researchers extend the term focus groups to include any group feedback situation, such as using quantitative opinion meters in large groups. The possibility of drawing on such quantitative-type techniques is often overlooked in academia because focus groups are seen strictly as a qualitative method. We will demonstrate the quanti-qualitative method by presenting a focused group interview study that utilized QQM. Specifically, we will describe our focused group interview study that incorporated a short survey and an experiment-like component, in tandem with questions that probe the participants' subjective experiences. We will discuss our use of QQM within the overall template of the five key characteristics of good focused group interview study design: shared experience, topic saturation, hypothesis testing, question route, and subjective experiences (Merton & Kendall, 1955; Merton et al., 1990). (1) We have also provided extensive supplementary information in notes, which are found at the end of this paper. …

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