Richard A. Krueger & Mary Anne Casey
We are qualitative researchers, consultants, teachers, and authors. We help people learn to conduct focus group interviews and learn to use stories in research. We work with government agencies, education systems, and nonprofits. We believe that organizations that listen to the people they serve, and their employees, create superior programs and services.
We first worked together in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, we decided to spend even more time together: we got married. We live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and can be reached at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard A. Krueger
I was trained as a quantitative researcher, specializing in survey research. My interest in qualitative research began well after graduate school, when I ran into trouble with a survey.
A group of technical colleges that wanted to increase their enrolments asked our team at the University of Minnesota to conduct a needs assessment to find out what kinds of classes farmers needed. We developed a mail survey, sent it out, analyzed the data, and told the technical colleges what kinds of courses farmers needed. The colleges designed and offered the new courses, but only a handful of people enrolled! We assumed the problem was sampling error. We designed a much more elaborate sampling strategy, and sent the survey out again. The results from the second survey were essentially identical to the results of the first. Something was wrong but we didn’t know what.
So we conducted focus groups with farmers in town halls, church basements, and in the back rooms of restaurants. We learned that the results of the needs assessment were accurate—but just because they needed those things didn’t mean they would go to classes. Farmers wanted an opportunity to talk with other farmers and learn practical skills from experts. When the technical colleges applied what we learned from the focus groups, enrollment dramatically increased. Clearly, focus groups could give us insights we couldn’t get through surveys.
My first book on focus group interviewing was published in 1988. Since then, I have conducted hundreds of focus groups, written 7 books on focus group interviewing (Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research is now in its 5th edition). I’ve had opportunity to teach graduate-level courses at several universities and to conduct workshops around the world, as well as serving as a consultant to many organizations.
In the last few years, I have developed a new interest—using stories in research. While conducting focus groups and individual interviews, I have heard many stories. Some of them helped me understand, some helped me convey an idea, and some kept me awake at night. Stories have power. I have been studying, teaching, and writing about the use of stories in research.
Mary Anne Casey
I have been conducting focus groups since the 1980s. I started as a member of a team completing a needs assessment with farmers—the same study Dick refers to above. We were stymied by the results of a survey. So in the focus groups, we showed farmers the results of our survey and asked them to help us understand the findings. I vividly remember a farmer in the first group saying, “Yes, we need those courses, but just because we need them doesn’t mean we’re going to go.” It sounds dramatic but, in that instant, my world changed. I had assumed that people would go to training if they needed it. This fellow helped me see things from his viewpoint and I had new appreciation for listening and focus groups.
Now I help government agencies, educational institutions, health care providers, foundations, and community groups listen to their customers and employees. Most of these studies aim to do one of these things:
• Identify barriers to and incentives for change
• Pilot-test potential interventions or policies
• Improve a program or service
• Identify outcomes. What difference have we made?
I have conducted hundreds of focus groups and used what I learned about the process to coauthor books on focus group interviewing (Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research is now in its 5th edition). In addition, I have taught graduate-level courses at the University of Minnesota, University of South Florida, and University of Michigan.
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