Before we begin to take you through the seven steps of Barrier
Analysis, we want to begin with a brief description of the two approaches
to this process: *
Using focus groups (hereafter
referred to as Option #1)
Using individual interviews
(hereafter Option #2).
Advantages of Focus Groups
Take less time: Doing two
focus groups of 15 people will generally take about half a day
(4 person-hours). Doing 60 or more 15-minute individual interviews
(assuming several minutes between interviews for travel) will
take at least two full days (about 15 person-hours).
Focus groups allow you to ask questions that are not on your
questionnaire to get a deeper and richer understanding of the
situation in a particular area. When you are tabulating multiple
questionnaires, these details are often not captured or not
recorded. Many of the things that we found in the analysis done
in the Dominican Republic, for example (see Session 8 above),
would probably not have been captured if we had been using individual
Requires less "Doers":
It is sometimes difficult to find 30 “Doers” of a
particular behavior. In this case, it would probably be more appropriate
to use Barrier Analysis through focus groups of Non-Doers. In
that way, you can get richer details on barriers. Since you would
not have a comparison group, there would be fewer benefits of
a quantitative study.
Advantages of Individual Interviews
Requires less training:
Using individual interviews generally requires less training
and skill on the part of the people asking the questions. It
is easier to administer a questionnaire for an individual interview
than to facilitate and keep a rich and lively discussion going
in a focus group.
Can quantitatively compare:
Using individual interviews allows you to quantitatively compare
the two groups, that is, to compare what portion of “Doers”
have a given barrier or opinion vs. “Non-Doers.”
However, the sample size needed to find differences between
two groups that are not very different can be quite high. For
example, you would need about 70 Doers and 70 Non-Doers to detect
a difference of 20 percentage points between the two groups,
and over 300 Doers and 300 Non-Doers to detect a difference
of only 10 percentage points between the two groups. If small
numbers of interviews are done (e.g., 30 for each group), even
these quantitative results must be viewed with some skepticism.
Only large differences (>30 percentage points) are generally
meaningful when you have a sample size of 60 (30 Doers and 30
For example, let’s say that you ask mothers “What
are the advantages of exclusively breastfeeding?” Let’s
say that you found that 8 of the 30 exclusively-breastfeeding
women say that it helped avoid diarrhea, and 16 of the 30 Non-Doers—those
not exclusively breastfeeding—said the same thing. You
might want to say that since 27% of Doers and 53% of Non-Doers
believe this, then that’s an important factor to take
into account when designing your educational messages. However,
the confidence interval for the 27% you found is actually 11-43%,
so somewhere between 11% and 43% of the mothers actually believe
that. For the Non-Doers, the confidence interval is 35-71%.
Since these two confidence intervals overlap, there is a reasonable
chance that the two proportions are actually the same. Even
if you wanted to be 90% certain that there was a difference
(instead of 95%), you would still have an overlap and could
not show a true difference. You can overcome this shortcoming
by doing a lot more interviews (e.g., 100 in each group), but
that would probably be quite time consuming. One way around
this problem is to include Barrier Analysis questions in larger
surveys that you already have planned.
Less bias: Using individual
interviews often leads to less bias since people do not hear
the answers of others. Focus group participants are supposed
to be selected in such a way that they do not know each other
very well, but that is often hard to achieve in smaller communities.
Sometimes leaders “insist” on being part of the
group, as well. This can lead to a bias where most people in
the focus group will “follow-the-leader” and give
the same response as the strongest opinion leader in the group.
Some people may not feel as comfortable saying some things in
a focus group, either.
In the practicum (field trial), we will practice conducting Barrier
Analysis both ways and then compare our results to see if our findings
are substantially different.
Quick Quiz Some of the advantages of using focus groups to do Barrier
Analysis are that they take less time (than individual interviews),
they provide a deeper and richer understanding of the situation,
and fewer "Doers" are required.
* Graciously provided by the Academy for Educational
Development’s Change Project as part of their Doer/Non-Doer