Academic journal article International Social Science Review

Optimising Rigor in Focus Group Analysis: Using Content/Thematic and Form/Structural Approaches to Understand British Somali's Experiences of Policing in London

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

Optimising Rigor in Focus Group Analysis: Using Content/Thematic and Form/Structural Approaches to Understand British Somali's Experiences of Policing in London

Article excerpt

Focus groups involve organising and conducting group discussions in order to gain knowledge of the attitudes, beliefs, practices and values of participants on a specific topic. (1) The talk generated in focus groups can be understood as a mixture of personal beliefs and available collective narratives, which are shaped by the context of participants' lives; and in this way, they have the methodological potential to highlight group norms and processes and also to illuminate the social and cultural contexts in which individual agency takes place. (2) In addition, focus groups can provide multiple layers of meaning, including personal and public information; convergence and divergence in attitudes and behaviour; and insight into people's lives and the circumstances of their lives.

Focus groups can be a stand-alone method and there is evidence that they are useful in studying issues with socially marginalised groups, notably when participants have experienced shared, particular "concrete" situations. (3) However, an often cited concern is researchers' inadequate description of the analytical process adopted which then affects the usefulness and credibility of the findings from focus groups and rigor in analysis. (4) This article addresses these concerns and the premise that rigor in focus group analysis can be achieved by applying an analytical framework which takes account of the content (themes) and form (structure) of focus group data. To illustrate this, this study uses focus group data to examine young British Somali men's individual and shared experiences of policing in the London Borough of Camden. Attending to structure allows for greater depth of analysis. Being clear and transparent about epistemological, theoretical, and conceptual frameworks and framing the material, social, and cultural contexts in which participants' experiences take place enhances the trustworthiness of findings and the robustness of analysis. There are limitations to focus groups, however analyzing focus group data can provide important insights into complex behaviours and motivations. (5)

Framed within an interpretivist paradigm, this paper's thematic analysis is driven by theoretical interest in how race/ethnicity--as social locations--shape young British Somali men's experiences of policing in the UK, and how experiencing multiple jeopardies or being constructed as "other" in manifold ways destabilises notions of homogeneity among BME populations. Additionally, drawing on the conventions of narrative analysis, this paper presents a form/structural analysis. This centres on three key areas: first, on positioning, or how participants cast themselves and others through their talk; and second, based on the premise that language is a cultural resource which people draw upon to reflect and (re)construct their experiences, the linguistic devices deployed by respondents, and the language they use to refer to and address one other; and third, the interactions between focus group members, considering consensus and disagreement, and on interactions between focus group members and the moderator.

The article first presents an overview of focus group analysis, taking particular account of approaches which privilege both content and form. It then outlines the theoretical and conceptual frameworks and places the focus group in context. A thematic and structural analysis of the focus group data is presented under the following sub-headings: stop and search; feeling unsafe in urban space(s); being under surveillance; negative interactions with the police; and troubling the notion of insider/outsiderness with regard to interactions between focus group members and the moderator. The paper concludes by reviewing the approach to analysis and the premise that rigour and robustness in focus group analysis can be enhanced by adopting an approach which attends to both content and form.

Analyzing Focus Groups

This paper's approach to focus group data analysis derives from and builds upon the work of others who emphasise the importance of rigour and trustworthiness. …

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