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Enabling talk: How the facilitator shapes a focus group.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date01/2007
JournalText & Talk - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language Discourse & Communication Studies
Journal number1
Volume27
Number of pages27
Pages79-105
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Contemporary democratic politics involves, not just constitutions, elections, and representative bodies, but complex processes of more direct consultation with the public. The value of these processes depends on their openness to voices, topics, and styles of expression that might be excluded from other forums. In this paper I analyze focus group discussions, one of the genres used for public consultation, and the ways that discussions are framed by facilitators. The facilitators' turns are seldom in the form of free-standing questions or statements requiring a response from the participants. Instead, the kinds of interventions they make—probes, prompts, formulations, and metacomments—can be understood in terms of what Sacks (1992) called second-speaker tying rules; that is, they construct coherence by presenting the facilitators' turns as following from what has already been said by a participant. These turns signal that participants are entitled to speak and the facilitator is listening; they also signal the kind of additional response that is wanted. These additional responses call for wider range, greater specificity and personal context, or further reflection on the wording or form of the statement. I argue that a forum does not extend consultation with the public just by removing institutional constraints to allow opinions to be spoken; it should also enable talk that would not otherwise have had an occasion to happen.

Bibliographic note

RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Linguistics