The use of focus group discussion methodology in conservation research

In conservation research focus group discussion is a widely used qualitative approach to gain an in-depth understanding of social issues. However, our study found that despite the growing popularity of the method conservation researchers do not adequately report on methodological choices from planning to data analysis. There is a lack of critical assessments of the technique and conservation literature provides no guidelines for best practice application.

In the paper published in a Special Feature of Methods in Ecology and Evolution (January 2018), we assess the strengths and weaknesses of the focus group discussion technique within biodiversity and conservation research in the last two decades. Led by Tobias Nyumba from the University of Cambridge, the study reviewed 170 papers reporting applications of focus group discussion. The review found that focus group discussions have been used to investigate a range of topics ranging from gaining understanding of people’s perspectives regarding conservation, assessing conservation and livelihoods practices, examining challenges and impacts of resource management interventions to documenting the value of indigenous knowledge systems. Most of the studies used focus group discussions alongside other methods. The study also found serious gaps in the reporting of the methodological details, in particular sampling and participant recruitment procedures, sample and group size, gender ratio, number of sessions and their duration. Information on the rationale for choosing focus group discussion was also missing.

The paper provides guidelines for planning and reporting applications of the focus group technique for conservation research. The review and guidelines could be useful for academics and practitioners intending to apply focus group discussion in their research and conservation practice.

To find out more, read:
Ochieng NT, Wilson K, Derrick CJ, Mukherjee N. The use of focus group discussion methodology: Insights from two decades of application in conservation. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 2018;9:20–32.

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