CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN USING FOCUS GROUP TO STUDY HETEROGENEOUS AND HOMOGENEOUS GROUPS
Gebru, Mihretab Solomon
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Focus group discussion is one of the commonly used qualitative research methods. In focus group discussions it is argued that having homogenous participants in terms of social characteristics like gender, race, age etc. is beneficial. Despite such argument little is done to explore the impact of having heterogeneous participants in terms of ethnicity and gender for focus group discussions. Therefore, this study discusses methodological issues and challenges in using focus group discussion with homogeneous and heterogeneous groups. The methodological issues include, but are not limited to sensitive issues, group interaction, power relations, non-verbal cues, depth and breadth of data, degree of comfort between participants. To understand these issues, five focus group discussions were conducted with international students on adaptation challenges for international students in Turkey. Groups were set as homogeneous and heterogeneous based on social characteristics i.e. ethnicity and gender. The homogeneous groups consisted of participants of the same gender and same ethnicity, while the heterogeneous groups consisted of mixed nationalities and gender. Findings of this study revealed that group composition has an impact on the discussion flow, data generated, and process of focus group discussion. Both homogeneous and heterogeneous group compositions can work well in specific situations depending on the purpose of the research. I argue that instead of turning back on heterogeneous group composition it is worthwhile to consider using it depending on the purpose of the study.
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