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Jeffrey K. Lange

Volume 3, No. 4, Art. 28 November 2002

Richard A. Krueger & Mary Anne Casey (2000). Focus Groups. A Practical Guide for Applied Research (3rd Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 206 pages, ISBN 0-7619-2070-6 cloth, £ 54.00, ISBN 0-7619-2071-4 paperback, £ 25.00
Key words: focus group, researchmethodology, social science research methodology, marketing research, public opinion research, citizen participation research 1. Introduction 2. Shortcomings 3. Contributions References Author Citation Table of Contents Abstract: KRUEGER and CASEY have prepared a handbook for planning, preparing for, and carrying out focus group studies. A work apparently aimed at an audience of novices, Focus Groupslacks solid theoretical grounding, promotes substituting idiosyncratic phrasing for technical terms more commonly used in the field, and overlooks or minimizes focus group advantages for evoking structured surprise and revealing target-audiences' linguistic constructions.

1. Introduction
The term "focus group" is well known today, not just among research professionals but among the public. Suchbroad (yet shallow) familiarity introduces a danger when one writes about the focus group as a technique for scientific discovery. Here is why: In this postmodern age, self-help books purport to create instant expertise in many fields. Following this trend, Richard A. KRUEGER and Mary Anne CASEY's book Focus Groups aims to educate students and managers how to plan, conduct, analyze, and reportresearch projects using the focus group technique. [1] After a brief overview chapter, their book progresses in the same logical sequence as a focus group study—chapter 2 on planning, chapter 3 on developing a "questioning route" (not the usual "discussion guide"), chapter 4 on recruiting participants, chapter 5 on moderator skills, chapter 6 on analysis, and chapter 7 on reporting results. These arefollowed by four more chapters dealing with fine tuning the reader's familiarity with focus groups. The book appears to be styled as a friendly volume, with extra-wide pages to facilitate note-taking, generous helpings of cartoon illustrations, and a spiral binding allowing it to remain open on the reader's desk. Occasionally, various tips are presented in one-third to one-half page boxes. Theauthors complete the tour in just over 200 pages, followed by two pages of references. [2]
© 2002 FQS Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (ISSN 1438-5627)

FQS 3(4), Art. 28, Review Jeffrey K. Lange: "Focus Groups. A Practical Guide for Applied Research" (Krueger & Casey 2000)

The book provides numerous pointers onfocus group pragmatics, but it disappoints in its minimal treatment of focus group methodology (as contrasted with "methods") and its overdone attempts to be accessible and cute to the focus group novice. It probably should have been titled, Focus Groups Lite, Third Edition. [3]

2. Shortcomings
For one thing, KRUEGER and CASEY tread too "litely" on the variety of theoretical foundations for focusgroup effectiveness. They could have cited or quoted from George SIMMEL (on why people would confide in a moderator they have never met before; see his classic essay "The Stranger" in WOLFF 1950, pp.402-408) or from Erving GOFFMAN (1959) on impression management by moderator and participants, including front-stage and back-stage variations. Largely unanswered are questions like, "Why should focusgroups work at all?" "Why would people divulge private thoughts and feelings to perfect strangers?" "What happens when revelation is leveraged by cash payments, turning us into 'paid informants'?" [4] Extended consideration of underlying philosophy of science questions appears in Chapter 11—entitled, "Answering Questions about the Quality of Focus Group Research." Placement of such issues at...
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