Using a Survey to Initiate and Sustain Productive Group Dialogue in Focus Groups
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Rinkus et al 2020 first page

Using a Survey to Initiate and Sustain Productive Group Dialogue in Focus Groups

Interaction is the distinctive feature of focus groups, yet little attention has been devoted to understanding techniques for enhancing the quality of interactions. We argue that using a quantitative survey instrument with focus groups has specific benefits beyond traditional open-ended topic lists or questions. We describe particular features of a survey that provoke reflection and reaction by participants, thereby deepening dialogue. When using this approach, we recommend that individuals complete the survey privately first, reflecting and taking a position on the statements individually, and then engage in discussion, which can surface differences and similarities. Drawing on our work with the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative involving collaborative cross-disciplinary research, we demonstrate the benefits of such a survey instrument to initiate and sustain productive dialogue, in this case regarding scientific beliefs and values. We conclude with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, as well as recommendations for designing and using survey items for focus groups.


Rinkus, M. A., Donovan, S., Hall, T. E., & O’Rourke, M. (2020). Using a survey to initiate and sustain productive group dialogue in focus groups. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 24(3): 327-340.



July 18, 2020


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