A focus group on the use of ecstasy
The following is a sample Paper 3 that looks at focus groups. Below you will first find the stimulus piece, followed by the static questions. A copy of the mock paper is included to give students as an in-class assessment.
The mark scheme below is created by me and is not an official IB document.
Potential answers are included in the hidden boxes below.
This study examined ecstasy use in 30 college students who participated in one of four 60-minute focus groups.
To obtain a sample, fliers were posted on a large university campus, inviting individuals who had used ecstasy on at least one occasion to anonymously contact the researcher via telephone or e-mail using a fictitious first name if they were interested in participating in a focus group about ecstasy. Four focus groups of six to 10 individuals were held in a private room on campus.
Upon entering the room for the focus group, each participant was instructed to write the fictitious first name they had used during the telephone screening on a name-tag. Participants were instructed to only use their fictitious first name during the session to protect their identity.
After completion of a brief survey, the guidelines for the hour-long group discussion were reviewed. Participants were told that they could speak about their personal experiences or what they knew about other substance users, but they could not disclose anyone's true identity. The researcher asked specific questions and permitted group members to respond to each other. The amount of time allotted to each topic varied based on group feedback and the judgment of the researcher. The researcher introduced six main topics, but discussion was not limited to these topics. Responses were written down by both the researcher and a trained research assistant.
Most participants had a basic understanding of the effects that ecstasy has on the brain and bodily functions. Participants reported positive effects on mood, social pressure, curiosity and boredom. They also reported a desire for an altered state of mind, desire to escape, desire to have fun, and the ease of use of ecstasy in comparison to other drugs as reasons for initiating ecstasy use. Participants described their experiences of both the positive and negative effects (physical and psychological) that they attributed to their use of ecstasy. The majority was unaware of specific types of problems ecstasy could potentially cause and discounted its potential harm.
At the conclusion of the group discussion, the researcher provided participants with a list of mental health resources and an informational handout about ecstasy containing a list of websites pertaining to substance use.
Levy, K. B., Ogrady, K. E., Wish, E. D., & Arria, A. M. (2005). An In-Depth Qualitative Examination of the Ecstasy Experience: Results of a Focus Group with Ecstasy-Using College Students. Substance Use & Misuse, 40(9-10), 1427-1441. doi:10.1081/ja-200066810
1a. Identify the method used and outline two characteristics of the method.
1b. Describe the sampling method used in the study.
1c. Suggest an alternative or additional research method giving one reason for your choice.
2. Describe the ethical considerations that were applied in the study and explain if further ethical considerations could be applied.
3. To what extent could you generalize the findings of this study?