Using Focus Groups to Research Sensitive Issues: Insights from Group Interviews on Nursing in the Northern Ireland “Troubles”

  • Joanne Jordan Queen's University
  • Una Lynch Queen's University
  • Marianne Moutray Queen's University
  • Marie-Therese O’Hagan WAVE Trauma Centre
  • Jean Orr Queen's University
  • Sandra Peake WAVE Trauma Centre
  • John Power Queen's University

Abstract

In this article the authors discuss the usefulness of focus groups for researching sensitive issues using evidence from a study examining the experiences of nurses providing care in the context of the Northern Ireland Troubles. They conducted three group interviews with nurses during which they asked about the issues the nurses face(d) in providing nursing care amid enduring social division. Through a discursive analysis of within-group interaction, they demonstrate how participants employ a range of interpretive resources, the effect of which is to prioritize particular knowledge concerning the nature of nursing care. The identification of such patterned activity highlights the ethnographic value of focus groups to reveal social conventions guiding the production of accounts but also suggests that accounts cannot be divorced from the circumstances of their production. Consequently, the authors argue that focus groups should be considered most useful for illuminating locally sanctioned ways of talking about sensitive issues.

Author Biographies

Joanne Jordan, Queen's University
Lecturer; School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Una Lynch, Queen's University
Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Governance, Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Marianne Moutray, Queen's University
Associate Head of School; School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Marie-Therese O’Hagan, WAVE Trauma Centre
Training and Research Officer; WAVE Trauma Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Jean Orr, Queen's University
Professor and Head of School; School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Sandra Peake, WAVE Trauma Centre
Chief Executive Officer; WAVE Trauma Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland
John Power, Queen's University
Teaching Fellow; School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Published
2007-12-19
Section
Articles