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Focus Group Recruiting in Health Communication Campaigns: Lessons from a Project on Risky Sexual Behavior
Unformatted Document Text:  Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns page 8 minimize the number of people in a group who might know each other. These included protocols to schedule roommates or other close associates into separate groups as well as conducting recruiting in a wide variety of circumstances in order to reduce the chances that participants might know one another. No more than two people could know each other. Specific circumstances led to these exceptions such as when a qualified respondent needed to share transportation to the discussion venue with another qualified individual, especially if it was a particularly difficult type of individual to recruit. Scholars have noted that there are some instances where the purpose of the research may cause a focus group to be composed of people from “naturally occurring” groups such as people who work or attend school together. The Mass Media Project found this was the case when recruiting the homosexual groups, since the homosexual population in the Lexington area is a relatively small and very tight knit community. Kitzinger (1995) pointed out that one desirable aspect of this composition is that the group may approximate a natural conversation more quickly and may be able to delve quickly into aspects of shared daily lives, which was found to be true of the Mass Media Project's homosexual focus group's discussion. The group shouldn’t include people who held antagonistic viewpoints, and participants should not be of extremely different rank or socioeconomic status. The Mass Media Project’s target population members were likely to hold viewpoints that were similar in key areas thereby avoiding the antithetical viewpoints that can create an environment that is too contentious, causing polarization which can inhibit productive discussion. PUTTING THE PLAN INTO ACTION As noted in the previous section, the first task is to identify the sample, including the criteria that defines the sample. Another consideration is the number of groups needed to address the different segments of the target population and the composition of each individual group (Morgan, 1998:131). This decision should be based on providing sufficient groups to address segmentation issues and also to stay within budgetary constraints. The Mass Media Project’s decision to segment by gender, personality trait, social affiliation and sexual orientation created a large number of groups, which had been planned for in the grant budget. Table 2 shows the segmentation grid for each of the Mass Media Project’s three waves. After deciding on the composition and number of groups, researchers are at the point when they must find people who fit the desired profile and who are willing to attend the group. It is essential that prospective respondents have “appropriate experience in the cultural scene” (Lindlof, 1994:178). Therefore the researcher must identify criteria that determines participant eligibility and also defines who should be excluded (Morgan, 1998:131). These criteria serve as the basis for a short questionnaire called a screener, which is designed to be used to determine eligibility of prospective focus group participants. The Mass Media Project screening criteria included gender, age, personality traits, social affiliation, ethnicity, and current

Authors: Allard, Suzie., Palmgreen, Philip. and Zimmerman, Rick.
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Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns
page 8
minimize the number of people in a group who might know each other. These included protocols to schedule
roommates or other close associates into separate groups as well as conducting recruiting in a wide variety of
circumstances in order to reduce the chances that participants might know one another. No more than two
people could know each other. Specific circumstances led to these exceptions such as when a qualified
respondent needed to share transportation to the discussion venue with another qualified individual,
especially if it was a particularly difficult type of individual to recruit.
Scholars have noted that there are some instances where the purpose of the research may cause a
focus group to be composed of people from “naturally occurring” groups such as people who work or attend
school together. The Mass Media Project found this was the case when recruiting the homosexual groups,
since the homosexual population in the Lexington area is a relatively small and very tight knit community.
Kitzinger (1995) pointed out that one desirable aspect of this composition is that the group may approximate a
natural conversation more quickly and may be able to delve quickly into aspects of shared daily lives, which
was found to be true of the Mass Media Project's homosexual focus group's discussion.
The group shouldn’t include people who held antagonistic viewpoints, and participants should
not be of extremely different rank or socioeconomic status. The Mass Media Project’s target population
members were likely to hold viewpoints that were similar in key areas thereby avoiding the antithetical
viewpoints that can create an environment that is too contentious, causing polarization which can inhibit
productive discussion.
PUTTING THE PLAN INTO ACTION
As noted in the previous section, the first task is to identify the sample, including the criteria that
defines the sample. Another consideration is the number of groups needed to address the different segments
of the target population and the composition of each individual group (Morgan, 1998:131). This decision
should be based on providing sufficient groups to address segmentation issues and also to stay within
budgetary constraints. The Mass Media Project’s decision to segment by gender, personality trait, social
affiliation and sexual orientation created a large number of groups, which had been planned for in the grant
budget. Table 2 shows the segmentation grid for each of the Mass Media Project’s three waves.
After deciding on the composition and number of groups, researchers are at the point when they must
find people who fit the desired profile and who are willing to attend the group. It is essential that prospective
respondents have “appropriate experience in the cultural scene” (Lindlof, 1994:178). Therefore the
researcher must identify criteria that determines participant eligibility and also defines who should be
excluded (Morgan, 1998:131). These criteria serve as the basis for a short questionnaire called a screener,
which is designed to be used to determine eligibility of prospective focus group participants. The Mass Media
Project screening criteria included gender, age, personality traits, social affiliation, ethnicity, and current


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