Interviews and Focus Groups: Methods of Data Collection

Ravitch, 1995, there are multiple ways to collect qualitative data. Interviews, observational field notes, focus groups, a review of documents, and archival data. This can also include online sources, questionnaires, and participatory methods of data collection. The purpose of this study is to compare two individual methods of qualitative data collection.

Comparison and contrast between interviews and focus groups

Holstein &Gubrium, 1995 identified an interview as social interaction with the interviewer and interviewee sharing in constructing a story and its meanings; both are participants in the meaning-making process. Interviewing is a skill that is held by an attentive listener that knows how to enter another’s experience. There are key reasons to engage in interviews for your research. The interviewer can get detailed experiences and perspectives, look at multiple perspectives, give a good description of experiences in-depth, obtain a holistic approach to reality, experiences, and phenomena, identify how participants interpret the event and experience and lastly build a bridge between the researcher and study participant. When conducting an interview, a quiet zone free from distraction should be available, provide clear instructions, obtain informed consent, record with permission, make the participant aware of confidentiality, explain the steps and procedure and last make sure that the participant is aware of what will happen to the information obtained. While an interview is usually a one-to-one event, observational fieldnotes look at individuals’ and groups’ behaviors during interactions this is a way to identify the meaning and significance of a set of behaviors. There are multiple benefits to observational field notes: (1). “ observational field notes can be flexible and exploratory, (2) observational research findings, when combined with other data collection methods, can enhance validity because they are considered triangulated data, (3) reviewing field notes over time allows you to gain insight into the roles, contexts, and realities of the research setting and people within it over time, (4) reviewing your real-time jottings and transforming them into fieldnotes facilitates reflective engagement (and ideally dialogic engagement of strategic moments) with the observational process.

When looking at these two concepts, there are methods that work together and then there are events that can not be grouped together. The interview process is primary goal of this process is to gain insight into the individual lived experience. and is used to gain insight into individuals, observational fieldnotes are beneficial to individual interviews and groups as well.

Focus groups are used to collect data that may not be discussed in the individual interview the reason is there are multiple dynamics and interactions within groups. Focus groups are more content-oriented. Focus groups are not always the best form of research, Focus groups are intentional which aids in the method of data collection. Group discussions are encouraged which can lead to possible disagreements due to biases and ideas about specific studies.

How data collection aligns with your research questions.

In the research that I am working on interview with observational fieldnotes is the best form of research. My topic is focused on the thoughts of individuals and how they feel about the job embeddedness of nurses in the hospital setting. Interviews performed are individualized about what makes them fit in, have a link, and are willing to give up to maintain the statue. While focus groups have generated responses that are a collective group and not individualized. Nurses participating in the focus group do not all have the same values, nor do they feel the same way about the organization and the community that they live in. Since focus groups structure interactions as a method of data collection. The group members are encouraged to interact and build on other responses. Since I wanted my research to be individualized the best process for me is an actual interview of the patients.


Holstein, J.A. &Gubrium, J.F. (1995). The active interview (Qualitative Research Methods Series 47) Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Ravitch, S.M & Carl, N.M. (2021. Qualitative research: Bridging the conceptual Theoretical, and methodological (2nd ed.) Sage Publications.

Discussion 2 – Week 8

  • From the data you collected and other data collection methods you studied, compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of at least two data collection methods. Include an explanation of your experience using these different data collection methods. Also, include an explanation of what you found difficult or challenging and why.
  • The two data collection methods I selected to compare and contrast this week are observational field notes and interviews. Interviews consist of one-on-one interactions between participants and researchers. Observational field notes consist of researchers recording what they observe participants do through the use of multiple senses. The simplest difference between these two collection methods is the knowledge that interviews focus on what participants say versus observational field notes include what researchers observe the participants doing (Paradis et al., 2016). One way in which interviews differ from observational field notes is that interviews are structured, either loosely, or in-depth (Jamshed, 2014). Observational field notes do not have structure, but provide the researcher with context and reinforce other data gathered in another manner. For example, if a participant described a circumstance to a researcher during either and interview of forcus group, the researcher could utilize observational field notes to either substantiate or disprove the participant’s description (Ravitch &Mittenfelner Carl, 2021). These two methods of data collection are difficult to compare because they are like comparing apples to color of apple versus comparing an apple to an orange. The relationship between interviews and observational field notes is not a one or other comparison, but could be used jointly to provide robust data.
  • Explain how you as the researcher can ensure that your choices for data collection align with your research questions. Use your experience from Major Assignment 1 as an example.
  • My research problem focuses on the reluctance of veterans to share their experiences from their time served in the military with civilians. I see the benefit of using both methods of data collection in completing my research project.


Jamshed, S. (2014). Qualitative research method-interviewing and observation. Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacy, 5(4), 87–88. NCBI.

Paradis, E., O’Brien, B., Nimmon, L., Bandiera, G., &Martimianakis, M. A. (Tina). (2016). Design: Selection of data collection methods. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 8(2), 263–264. NCBI.

Ravitch, S. M., &Mittenfelner Carl, N. (2021). Qualitative research : bridging the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological. Sage.


Response to Carrie

Dear Carrie, thank you for providing an insightful and informative theoretic background for the methods that you are going to use in your research. Indeed, qualitative research requires professionals to conduct in-depth interviews so the participants feel free to share their experiences while providing the information that is necessary for the research. In addition, the interviewer’s expertise and soft skills are necessary to keep the interviewee’s response relevant to the topic without hindering the person (Barrett & Twycross, 2018). I also appreciated the way you addressed some challenges that may be faced when conducting the research. As such, the difference in personal views and values of interviewees can affect the way focus group observation suits the purpose of the study. If the premise of the research is based on including personal opinions and experiences, then one-to-one interviews are a more suitable method.


Barrett, D., & Twycross, A. (2018). Data collection in qualitative research. Evidence-Based Nursing, 21(3), 63-64.

Response to Jennifer

Dear Jennifer, thank you for pointing out the differences between the interviews and field observations. Both of those methods have different approaches and serve different purposes. Therefore, the differences between them are obvious; however, it is challenging to provide a thorough comparison of these methods without context (Cypress, 2018). Therefore, I would love you to elaborate on the way you used these methods in your own research since the insight that you provided is scarce. What particular benefits of interviews do you see in researching the reasons behind veterans’ reluctance to share their experiences with civilians do you see? Are you going to structure your interview loosely or make it in-depth? Why? I believe that when given the context of the research, it is easier to compare the strength and limitations of both the methods. Yet, I agree that combining interviews with field observations is an effective strategy as it diversifies the obtained data.


Cypress, B. (2018). Qualitative research methods: A phenomenological focus. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 37(6), 302-309.

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