Critical Comparison between Questionnaires and Focus Groups
Research is a method of systematic or scientific research. Research provides answers to questions by uncovering hidden truths. An person may perform a research to familiarize himself with a particular phenomenon or to discover new insights into a familiar phenomenon. Research can also be carried out to test formulated theory of a phenomenon or to identify the characteristics of the entity being studied. Consequently, the type of research method that a person uses is dependent on the research intent and intention (Panneerselvam 2004, p. 10). Research can be categorised in many ways. One such way is descriptive versus analytical research. Descriptive research is conducted to investigate various aspects of a phenomenon. In this case, a researcher seeks to find out facts about research objects. It may include surveys and enquires on the current situation in the researcher’s area of interest (Kumar 2008, p. 6; Kothari 2008, p.2).
The author actually presents information about variables in a concise analysis. The researcher has no control of over variables and cannot manipulate them in the study. Therefore, the researcher gives a description of variables as they exist in their natural environment. Descriptive research is useful in measuring objects. In this kind of research, different methods are used depending on the nature of the study and the researcher’s preferences. Comparative and correlation research methods are used in descriptive research. To determine this phenomenon, empirical research involves using the information obtained on a phenomenon. The researcher therefore not only collects facts about research objects, but also uses these facts to analyze or judge the objects being studied (Kumar 2008, p. 6; Kothari 2008, p.2).
Research can also be categorised as fundamental or applied research. Applied research differs from fundamental research in that it seeks to provide an immediate solution to an existing problem. Fundamental research can generalize a problem and build ideas about how the issue began or how it can be solved. In fundamental research, multiple solutions can be generated and analyzed, but the researcher recommends the ideal solutions. Fundamental research is often referred to as basic research because a person gathers facts in order to add to their knowledge level. Applied science is definitive and provides answers to research questions or real study problems. Basic or fundamental research therefore adds to the existing body of scientific knowledge, while applied research solves problems (Ethridge 2004, p. 20). Research can be categorised as conceptual or empirical. Conceptual research is based on theories and is used to develop new concepts about a phenomenon. This research can also be used to reinforce or interpret existing concepts and theories.
Empirical research does not take into account existing theories, but is focused on observation. This type of research is based on data collected and conclusions are drawn based on observations. Empirical research is observational and a scientist gathers information about the phenomenon first hand. The research may manipulate things in an environment to achieve the desired results. In most cases, empirical research starts with an experiment’s hypothesis or expected results. The data collected in this case will be used to test hypothesis. Empirical research is used to describe relationships between two or more variables (Kumar 2008, p. 8; Burns 1992, p. 195). Research can be categorised as either quantitative or qualitative. This is the most common categorisation of research. Quantitative research is based on measurable variables. The main objective in quantitative research is to generalise collected data.
Qualitative research focuses on collecting information on immeasurable variables such as human behaviour, emotions and feelings among others. Qualitative data aims as explaining phenomena by gathering evidence of why a phenomenon exists. It gives reasons, motivations and insights of why phenomenon or a problem exists. The data collection methods in qualitative research are in most cases unstructured while in quantitative research, the techniques are well structured. Qualitative research may involve a small sample of non-representative members. For instance, a researcher may choose to select individuals to engage in a group discussion on the research topic. These individuals may not represent the entire population but will provide useful insights and explanations of phenomenon as they express their views. In quantitative research, random sampling is widely used to form a sample that represents the population. The findings in qualitative research are not conclusive and therefore cannot be used to make general statements on phenomena under investigation. The findings in quantitative research are conclusive and provide solutions to problems investigated (Tomal 2010, p. 3; Taylor 2005; Berg & Latin 2003, p. 214).
Researchers face various ethical issues when conducting their surveys. They are expected to conduct research in an ethical manner. Ethical issues have created differences between researchers and organizations. Mistakes made by past researchers have pushed organizations to establish policies that restrict researchers from conducting surveys in these organizations. In most cases such policies are developed when researcher violate an organizations values and code of ethics. Thus, it is important for researchers to observe ethics and established rules in organizations to gain access to target respondents in future. Observing ethics in a research enables a researcher to achieve his or her research aims such as accuracy in data collection and analysis. Researchers aim at gaining more knowledge about a phenomena and upholding ethics enables them to gain access to that knowledge. Organizations are likely to give researchers room to conduct their surveys if they are assured on their commitment to ethics (McNamee & McNamee 2002; Mauthner et al 2002).
Ethics enable a researcher to avoid misrepresentation of data, errors and fabrications of truth. Research involves collaboration among many individuals and institutions. Each of these individuals and institutions has a unique set of values and preferences. The research process requires coordination among many individuals who may be located in different organizations depending on the kind of research that is being conducted. Trust, truth and respect are important to such collaborations and coordination. Ethics in research ensure that researchers observe intellectual property rights of individuals and institutions. This is particularly important in cases of data sharing and when borrowing ideas from past researchers to make conclusions on current issues. Every author and researcher values their contribution to the body of knowledge in their field of specialization. Researchers must give credit to past researchers when using their ideas or findings of their past surveys. Disclosing someone’s ideas prematurely is also unethical and a researcher must be aware of the impact of such an act to other researchers (McNamee & McNamee 2002; Mauthner et al 2002; Gregory; 2003).
Researchers are accountable to the public for their actions during research activities. This is because researchers involve the public when collecting data. Some of the surveys conducted require public opinion and sometimes researchers expect individuals to give their honest opinion on sensitive issues. In addition, governments or their authorities fund some of the surveys conducted. These funds belong to the public and researchers must account for their expenditure on those funds. Researchers must use such funds for the intended purpose and this requires ethics. The public is willing to fund surveys that are conducted in an ethical manner as well as surveys that add generate new insights. The public may also support a survey that will generate solutions to problems in society if they have trust in the researchers (Connaway & Powell 2010, p. 91; Babbie 2010, p. 120; Loue 2000).
Researchers should take into account moral and social values in a society in which they intend to conduct a survey. Conducting research in an ethical manner ensures that a researcher observes such values and fulfills his or her social responsibility. Fabrication of data may have fatal effects on society especially in surveys that involve the health of human beings and animals. For instance, researchers in the medical field may conduct a research on the right contents of a drug. Using false data or falsifying their findings to fit their hypothesis may have a negative impact of the health of individuals if their research findings are adopted in drug manufacturing. Thus, research must consider the effects of their actions on society and ensure that they do not violate the values that a society upholds (Connaway & Powell 2010, p. 91; Babbie 2010, p. 120; Loue 2000).
A fraudulent medical research in Australia in the early 1980s outlines the negative effects of fabricating data. In this research, Dr William McBride claimed to have discovered that a drug called thalidomide could lead to congenital malformation. This research was accused of duplicating data in his studies as well as using unauthorized data. McBride stole the neural crest theory from another research and claimed it to be his authentic idea. This theory explains how thalidomide functions and the research gave a false witness in its trial basis in the USA. McBride used fabricated data in his study of the impact of hyoscine on birth deformities. If McBride’s research findings were adopted in the medical fields, many deaths would have been witnessed especially among women in Australia. Using unauthorized and fabricated data led to McBride’s dismissal as a medical researcher and practitioner (Taylor & Kermode 2006, p. 124).
One of guiding principles when conducting a research is honesty. One aspect of honesty in a research is giving the correct report on data collected, research methods, and data analysis results. Research should be honest when publishing the results of their surveys and give the correct research procedures that can be verified in further researches. Another aspect of honesty involves giving the correct information to participants and other stakeholders in a project. Researchers should give the correct information to organizations, the public and funding agencies regarding the entire research. Objectivity is important in every kind of research. Researchers are expected to avoid bias in all research activities especially in data analysis, reviews of existing literature, research design and interpretation of data. Bias affects the validity of research procedures and findings (Gregory 2003; McNamee & McNamee 2002).
Researchers should avoid carelessness and negligence when conducting a research. The data collection and analysis processes should be systematic and well documented to avoid errors. Every step and data collected should be recorded for future reference. Researchers enter into agreements and make promises to institutions when seeking permission to conduct a survey in those institutions or access their databases. Such promises and agreements should be observed in all research activities. The ideas in a research should be presented in a consistent manner. Openness is important to research especially for validation purposes. A researcher should be willing disclose data and research approaches used to arrive at his or her conclusions on the research topic. A researcher should also be willing to incorporate new ideas into the study to give a comprehensive final report (Gregory 2003, p. 35; Iltis 2006).
One of the major concerns in research is confidentiality of personal information availed to researchers. These concerns have caused people to shun away from participating in surveys and providing their honest opinions in such surveys. Organizations have also restricted researchers from conducting surveys in their promises in fear that researchers may misuse data collected from employees or an organization’s database. Therefore, researchers must keep their promise of confidentiality to participants. Researchers should not use unpublished data in their research without authorizations from relevant parties. For instance, unpublished data regarding an organization’s financial position may have negative effects on its competitiveness and relationship with its stakeholders. Another ethical issue in research is discrimination. Researchers should not discriminate participants based on their color, race, or gender. Discrimination involves participating institutions as well. There should be no discrimination when choosing organizations as sites for conducting research (Gregory 2003, p. 35; Iltis 2006).
In every survey, participants should not be coerced to take part. They should do so willingly. A researcher has a responsibility of informing participants of all procedures and activities in a survey beforehand. The researcher should also inform participants of any risks involved in participating in a survey. Researchers are supposed to conduct their studies in a way that does not cause any physical or psychological harm. Some countries have established research standards that dictate that participants should remain anonymous in a research. Some standards require participants to be anonymous even to the researcher. (Gregory 2003, p. 35).
Researchers can use various methods to collect data depending on the kind of research and data they intend to collect. Some of these data collections methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, observation and experiment among others. In this paper, focus groups and questionnaires will be analyzed in detail. A critical comparison of the two data collection methods will be outlined as well.
Comparison Between a Questionnaire and a Focus Group
Morgan (1998, p. 29) describes a focus group as a method of collecting data in which a researcher gathers individuals together to discuss a given topic or issues. Such a group may consist of 5- 20 individuals and a researcher has control over the size of the group. A focus group can be considered as a form of group interviews where the researcher formulates questions beforehand and poses them to the group members. The interactions between the researcher and the group members as well as among group members become the source of information to answer the questions raised. The nature of the research questions that are asked in the group determines the amount of information and insights that a researcher collects. Focus groups are used to collect qualitative data (Morgan 1998, p. 29).
Liamputtong (2011, p. 47), Jayanthi, and Nelson (2002, p.2) give more insights on how to use focus groups to collect data. The authors indicate that there is need to acquire skills in research questions formulation if a researcher intends to use a focus group as the sole method of data collection. The insights derived from debates in focus groups are sometimes incomparable to those obtained from experiments, surveys and observations. This is partly because the participants have time to express and explain their views unlike in a survey where short answers are required. Focus groups have been used extensively over the years for qualitative research.
Jayanthi and Nelson (2002, p.2) indicate that focus groups are ideal in cases where the targeted participants are unwilling or afraid to express their honest opinions as individuals. For instance, minority groups and lowly ranked employees maybe unwilling to express their opinions on a research topic because of fear of victimization. However, such individuals may feel comfortable in a group and openly express their views. Liamputtong (2011, p. 47), Jayanthi, and Nelson (2002, p.2) continue to indicate that focus group offers some form of security to participants to give more insights to research questions that they may not give in other research methods including questionnaires. Participants can critically analyze issues in a social setting relative to interviews in a formal setting. A focus group can also be used in cases where a researcher cannot generate a standardized set of questions that will apply to every participant. Some of the terminologies in the research may be too complex for some participants to understand. Thus, a research can use a focus group made of these individuals and break down the research questions in a way that participants understand.
A researcher may also use a focus group when investigating human behavior that cannot be captured in a questionnaire. Focus groups reveal some emotional reaction to issues that cannot be revealed in other methods of data collection. Focus groups are also ideal in cases where a researcher is interested in knowing the extent to which participants differ in opinion. For instance, focus groups will indicate the extent to which group member agree or disagree with a statement. This information cannot be captured using a questionnaire where participants simply indicate whether they agree or disagree with a tick (Liamputtong 2011, p. 47; Jayanthi & Nelson, 2002, p.2).
Kruger and Casey (2000, p. 2) and Burton (2000, p.188) argue that focus groups are in some cases the preferred method of data collection compared to questionnaires. Sometimes participants do not take questionnaires seriously and may not give their honest opinions. This is particularly true in organizations or institutions where multiple studies have been conducted and employees are used to filling questionnaires. Students or young people may not understand the importance of a survey and therefore fail to take the questionnaire seriously. Engaging such participants in a group discussion is a better method of collecting data from them. In a group setting, members will challenge each other’s responses to questions. Thus, participants are encouraged to give thought to their responses and give appropriate answers to questions.
Kruger and Casey (2000, p. 2) and Burton (2000, p.188) continue to indicate that focus groups are very useful when conducting a research in an institution or organization that is experiencing disputes or conflicts. When individuals in the same organizations greatly differ in opinion concerning a phenomenon, focus groups are a preferred method of data collection. A researcher can engage both sides of the conflict in discussion groups to gather vast information on the subject. Using a questionnaire in such cases is inappropriate. This is because participants may fail to give their honest opinions without an assurance of confidentiality. A researcher can capture the emotions of participants in focus groups in cases of conflict in an organization (Kruger & Casey 2000, p. 2; Burton 2000, p.188).
Litosseliti (2003) and Morgan (1998) argue a researcher can choose to use structured or unstructured focus groups. A structured group enables a researcher to keep track of the research questions. Structured groups allow a research to compare data collected and the nature of discussions. This is because similar questions are asked in all groups and in the same sequence. In this case, the discussion is based on research questions and objectives. The researcher has to be keen and take charge of the direction of discussions in all groups. In unstructured focus groups, the researcher simply introduces subtopic based on research questions and allows members to determine the direction of the discussion on that topic. However, the researcher has to exercise some control even in unstructured focus groups to ensure that they do not take longer than necessary (Litosseliti 2003; Morgan 1998).
Litosseliti (2003) and Morgan (1998) indicate that questioning strategies enable a researcher to control the direction of a focus group discussion. A researcher must be careful not to dominate a focus group in a way that does not give participants to give their views on the subject. Alternating on the kind of questions can help a researcher to gather a lot of information from the participants. For instance, a researcher can mix leading, direct, factual and testing questions in discussion depending on the desired response from participants. In education, focus groups are used to evaluate programs to determine their effectiveness. For instance, researchers can engage a group of teachers in a discussion regarding a curriculum or a teaching method. Teachers will give their opinions and in-depth analysis of the curriculum or teaching method. A research can capture the attitude of teachers towards the curriculum during the discussion. Sometimes schools experience shortages in resources to fund a comprehensive research on a program. Focus groups offer an alternative way of collecting information because it is easier to engage teachers in discussion in an informal setting (Litosseliti 2003; Morgan 1998).
Denscombe (2007, p. 153) describes a questionnaire as a tool for collecting data that consists of a set of questions and spaces for responses from participants. The design and kind of questions in a questionnaire depend on the research questions and objectives. Thus, the purpose of a questionnaire is linked to the purpose of the research. Questionnaires are mostly used in quantitative research. The respondents in most cases are aware of the purpose of a questionnaire and participate in a study willingly. Questionnaires can be electronic, face-to-face, telephone or postal. The kind of questionnaire that a researcher uses depends on the prevailing survey conditions such as availability of target population and resources available (Denscombe 2007, p. 153).
Electronic and postal questionnaires are in most cases simply structured and clear to respondents. Participants complete such questionnaires at their own time and send them back to the researcher. With face-to-face and telephone questionnaires, a researcher asks a predetermined set of questions to respondents and records all the responses. Questionnaires are ideal for collecting information that can be used to classify individuals or their opinions. Questionnaires can be used to capture basic attitudes of respondents towards a phenomenon. Questionnaires can also be used in cases when a research intends to examine a trend or quantify data (Beiske, 2007; Denscombe 2007, p. 154).
The literatures analyzed above describe focus groups and questionnaires as well as the instances in which these data collection methods are used. From this analysis, it is clear that questionnaires differ from focus groups in terms of how they are administered, the kind of data collected, target population, and prevailing conditions in a survey. Comparing the works of Denscombe (2007) and Liamputtong (2011) gives similarities between questionnaires and focus groups. One similarity between using questionnaire and a focus group to collect information is that only willing participants or respondents are involved in a survey. The researcher informs respondents of the purpose of the research and predetermines the questions in both research methods.
Denscombe (2007) and Liamputtong (2011) indicate that both questionnaires and focus groups can collect real time information on respondents’ attitudes and opinions on a subject. This is particularly true when using telephone and face-to-face questionnaires. Both focus groups and questionnaires are limited in collecting in-depth information on a phenomenon especially when handling complex issues. Another similarity between using questionnaires and focus groups is that both are labor intensive. Organizing and conducting a discussion in a focus group is labor intensive and in most cases, a researcher uses more than one focus group.
According to Denscombe (2007) and Liamputtong (2011), other similarities between questionnaires and focus groups relate to resource requirement and formulation of research questions. Both questionnaires and focus groups require allocation of resources that sometimes constrain researchers. A researcher can use standardized questions in focus groups and in questionnaires. Standardized questionnaire can be used in structured focus groups. Another similarity between questionnaires and focus groups is that a researcher has the freedom to mix different kinds of questions in the same instrument. Mixing questions enables a researcher to generate the required responses to questions and collect vast information on a research topic. A researcher can capture basic attitude of respondent towards an event or phenomenon when using a questionnaire or a focus group.
Mitchell and Jolley (2009, p. 263) and Hair et al (2011, p. 557) give further insights into the similarities between questionnaires and focus groups. The authors indicate that for a researcher to collect objective and unbiased information in focus groups, anonymity is required. This means that members of a focus group should not know one another. The same degree of anonymity is required when using a questionnaire. Focus groups and questionnaires can be used to collect qualitative data. Similar to questions in a focus group, questionnaires contain questions that allow respondents to expresses their opinions and personal experiences.
Mitchell and Jolley (2009, p. 263) and Hair et al (2011, p. 557) indicate that focus groups and questionnaires differ in their application. Focus groups are ideal for qualitative research while questionnaires are ideal for quantitative research. However, questionnaires can also be used in qualitative research. A researcher can reach a large population with questionnaires unlike in the case of focus groups where only a few people participate. Thus, a large sample can be used when using questionnaires to collect data. Such a sample is a better representation of the population compared to the sample in a focus group. The authors argue that focus groups are ideal for collecting data on controversial issues. Using questionnaires in this case is inappropriate. Questionnaires are easy to administer and involve lower costs compare to focus groups. However, the response rate in questionnaires is low compared to the response rate in focus groups (Hair et al 2011, p. 557; Greenbaum 1998).
Mitchell and Jolley (2009) argue that questionnaires can reach target participants in different geographical locations. This is not possible with focus groups. The participants in remote locations can be accessed using postal questionnaires. Although a researcher can reach a large population, he or she has no control over the decisions of respondents to fill or not fill questionnaires. The respondents may decide to answer all, some or none of the questions in a questionnaire. In a focus group, a researcher has control over the direction of the discussion. Thus, a researcher can ensure that members respond to all set questions (Mitchell & Jolley 2009, p. 263; Hair et al 2011, p. 557).
Denscombe (2007, p. 170) and Greenbaum (1998) outline some shortcomings of choosing questionnaires over focus groups. One such limitation is that they inappropriate for persons with disabilities. With such categories of respondents, focus groups are more appropriate and easier to use to collect data. However, a researcher can use telephone questionnaires to reach visually impaired respondents. The authors continue to indicate that questionnaires consume a lot of time to prepare and administer relative to focus groups. In a focus group, a researcher can control the amount of time spent in answering each question. With questionnaires, respondents answer questions at their convenient time. A researcher may wait for a long time before getting feedback on postal questionnaires. When a researcher requires timely responses to an event, focus groups are more appropriate relative to questionnaires. It takes time to prepare and distribute questionnaires. The target participants may delay in responding to questionnaires. However, timely responses on current events can be obtained using focus groups (Denscombe 2007, p. 170; Greenbaum 1998)
Nargundkar (2008, p.53) argues that objectivity is observed with questionnaires relative to focus groups. This is because questionnaires contain standardized questions that help a researcher to remain objective throughout the survey. Objectivity is sometimes lost in focus groups especially in unstructured focus groups. Objectivity is an important ethical issue in research. However, Zikmund and Babin (2006, p. 219) argue that standardized questions are based on the assumption respondents understand the questions in the questionnaires. A researcher does not have the opportunity to explain any unclear points in a questionnaire. Respondents may fail to answer unclear questions or guess their responses. A focus group does not have such limitations because a research has an opportunity to explain the intent and purpose of each question. Long questionnaires are sometimes unreliable. This is because respondents may give superficial answers just to complete the questionnaire. The number of questions in focus groups is in most cases fewer relative to those in a questionnaire (Zikmund & Babin 2006, p. 219).
Nargundkar 2008, p.53), Zikmund, and Babin (2006, p. 219) argue that it is possible to collect information from respondents that prefer not to be identified. In most cases, researchers use anonymous questionnaires to protect respondent. Anonymity is important in sensitive issues that may have negative effects on respondents after a survey. For instance, an employee may be terminated from employment based on their responses to survey questions if the administration has access to named questionnaires. Anonymity and confidentiality is limited when using a focus group to collect information. Although the researcher might not reveal the personal information of participants in a focus group, participants get to know each other and can reveal details of their discussion. Another difference between a questionnaire and focus groups is that a research can identify changes in emotions and behavior of respondents as they progress from one question to another in a focus group (Nargundkar 2008, p.53; Zikmund & Babin 2006, p. 219).
The authors continue to indicate that focus groups are conducted in a social setting and participants may conform to popular opinions on an agenda instead of giving their personal opinion. This means that a researcher may collect more information using interview questionnaire relative to focus groups. Questionnaires may contain as many questions as a researcher desires. The number of questions asked in focus groups is limited to the time available. In a busy working environment, participants may not have time to answer many questions and thus group discussions may take a short time. Participants can answer multiple questions in a questionnaire in a short time (Nargundkar 2008, p.53; Zikmund & Babin 2006, p. 219).
Nargundkar (2008, p.54) that it is easy to compare findings from different researches using quantifiable data, which is collected using questionnaires. This kind of data cannot be collected using focus groups. In additional, focus groups differ from questionnaires in that they require recording of the data collected. Using some kinds of questionnaires such as postal, printed, and electronic questionnaires does not require any recording of data collected. Responses are contained in the questionnaire. In a focus group, a researcher has to record data during the discussion. Nargundkar (2008, p.54) indicates that a researcher can manipulate the data collected from focus groups because he or she control the discussion by the kind of questions asked. Researchers can introduce their personal bias unintentionally during a group discussion. A researcher may also lead group member to reach a predetermined conclusion using questioning strategies. In this case, participants do not give their honest opinions but conform to the researcher’s opinion. These challenges do not exist when using a questionnaire because standardized questions are used and the researcher has no control over responses
Nargundkar (2008, p.54) using a focus group requires that a researcher to have leadership skills to conduct a discussion without allowing a few people to dominate the discussion. Thus, a shy researcher cannot rely on focus groups to collect data. Sometimes individuals find it easier to express their feelings about sensitive issues in writing rather than oral conversation. A researcher may not obtain honest and full information from such participants using focus groups. Questionnaires and other survey are necessary in such cases. Questionnaires simply collect facts but in a focus group, a researcher can collect facts and reasons behind the facts. Focus groups are flexible and this allows participants to think openly and deeply on research topic. This is limited when using a questionnaire because questions are standardized Nargundkar 2008, p.56).
Nargundkar (2008, p.54) continues to indicate that a researcher or a group of people can administer questionnaires without any significant effect on their reliability and validity. The analysis of data collected in a questionnaire is easy and fast especially when using software. Quantitative data collected using questionnaires can be used to generalize ideas, create theories and test hypothesis. This is limited when using focusing groups to collect data. Analyzing data collected in focus groups is tedious and may take a long time to sort and analyze (Nargundkar 2008, p.53).
Conclusion and Recommendations
Study is a method of systematic or scientific research. Research can be categorised as descriptive versus analytical, fundamental versus applied, conceptual versus empirical and quantitative versus qualitative research. Researchers are expected to conduct all research activities in an ethical manner. Some of the ethical issues that arise in research include honest, confidentiality, respecting intellectual property rights, coercion of participants, data fabrication, negligence, observing social values, and discrimination among others. Researchers can use various methods to collect data depending on the kind of research and data they intend to collect. Focus groups are used to collect qualitative data from a small group of individuals. Questionnaires are mainly used to collect quantitative data from large population (Panneerselvam 2004, p. 10 McNamee & McNamee 2002; Liamputtong 2011, p. 47)
A researcher may use structured questions in both focus groups and questionnaires. Anonymity is required in both research methods. The questions in both cases are predetermined and respondents are informed of the purpose of research beforehand. Real time information and basic attitudes of respondents can be collected using questionnaires and focus groups. Both methods of data collection are labor intensive. Focus groups differ from questionnaires in terms of sample size, response rate, cost, reliability and type of data collected (Denscombe 2007; Liamputtong 2011). A researcher is likely to remove objective and avoid bias when using questionnaires. Questionnaires can reach a wider population and collect vast information at low costs relative to focus groups. However, participants in focus groups provide a more critical and in-depth analysis of issues at hand relative to questionnaires. A researcher can collect information on behavior, feeling and emotions when using focus groups (Mitchell & Jolley 2009, p. 263; Hair et al 2011, p. 557).
Questionnaires contain standardised questions that limit the amount of information that respondents provide. However, it is easy to compare data collected using questionnaire and use such data to test hypothesis or generate theories (Nargundkar 2008, p.54). My dissertation will investigate the provisions available for adults with learning disabilities after their college education. For this project I will use questionnaire to conduct surveys in various institution. Based on the analysis on the differences and similarities between questionnaires and focus groups in this essay, it is clear that questionnaires are more reliable research instruments relative to focus groups. Using questionnaires will enable me to collect vast information from diverse respondents in different geographical locations. I can involve a large sample in the project and compared data from different regions.
Questionnaires are cheap and easy to formulate. Categorising and analysing data is easier when using questionnaires relative to using focus groups. It may be difficult to involve adults with learning disabilities in a lengthy discussion. However, such individuals can easily respond to simple questions on questionnaires. It is easier to remain objective as a researcher when using questionnaires for data collection. Confidentiality and anonymity requirements in research are easier to observe with questionnaires relative to focus groups. Respondents do not have to indicate their personal information on questionnaires. Therefore, questionnaires are more appropriate in my research relative to focus groups. However, I may use a few focus groups to supplement the data collected and obtain different perspective on the research topic.
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