Face-to-Face versus Online Focus Groups in Two Different Countries: Do Qualitative Data Collection Strategies Work the Same Way in Different Cultural Contexts?
Recently there has been renewed interest in cross-cultural qualitative research underscoring the epistemological and methodological pitfalls implied in this kind of research. In particular, focus groups, because of their intrinsically relational nature, require an accurate analysis of how the setting influences interpersonal exchanges and people’s attitudes toward participation and, thus, the results achieved. In this chapter, the authors consider how the data collection medium framed the results of a study involving 16 focus groups on HIV/AIDS, 8 conducted with Italians and 8 with Canadians aged 18 to 25. The focus groups were designed to reflect four techniques (face-to-face, online forum, online chat, online forum+chat) and were distributed equally in the two countries. Data were analysed using software-based content analysis (T-lab), psychosocial discourse analysis, software-based discourse analysis (Atlas.ti), and conversational analysis. The different techniques had specific influences on the findings production, which were fairly consistent between the two countries. The authors discuss the importance of these findings in cross-cultural qualitative studies, as researchers frequently make situated choices regarding data gathering in various settings according to their research objectives.
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