A recent issue of Area (1996, Volume 28.2) devoted space to six papers on focus groups, attesting to their increasing importance as a means of obtaining qualitative data. The papers provided interesting insights into the use of focus groups in specific research and cultural contexts, and raised three main issues in my mind. The first is a continuing misunderstanding as to the nature of knowledge, which surfaces in discussions of, and approaches to, the use of qualitative methods such as focus groups. The second is the range of related techniques that are actually involved in the qualitative method, known as group discussions, and the considerable confusion in the terms used to describe them. The third is the usefulness and difficulty of applying qualitative methods in specific research, political and cultural contexts, an issue that has arisen in my own research experience in Singapore, an Asian and simultaneously globalized city-state, and a parliamentary democracy that has sought to depoliticize its citizenry and develop an 'administrative state'. I wish to comment specifically on two context-specific issues. First, in doing policy research where results are to be presented to policy- and decision-makers attuned to positivistic persuasions, what are the difficulties in defending qualitative research methods that do not claim large samples? How can the claims of validity and reliability be made? Second, how can recruitment and sustained participation be expected and coaxed from people for whom public participation is not part of the culture, where civil society is not strong, and where a Confucian rather than Socratic tradition of learning has, by and large, produced a people deferential to authority, and accustomed to receiving wisdom, rather than participating through questioning?
Focus groups, research methods, Asia, Singapore
Asian Studies | Higher Education | Theory, Knowledge and Science
Kong, Lily.(1998). Refocusing on Qualitative Methods: Problems and Prospects for Research in a Specific Asian Context. Area, 30(1), 79-82.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/1808
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.