Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Brooks Applegate

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Linda Thurston


non-inferiority, Latin square design, linguistic analysis, equivalence testing, disclosure, data collection


The purpose of this study was to examine the equivalence or non-inferiority for comparisons of telephone focus group venue to face-to-face focus group venue, Internet video-based focus group venue to face-to-face focus group venue, and Internet video based focus group venue to telephone focus group venue. Research questions examined the equivalence and non-inferiority of five variables reported in the literature as fundamental reasons a researcher would choose focus groups as a data collection tool. The five variables were: participant interactions, breadth of conversation, depth of conversation, disclosure of sensitive information, and adherence to the topic. Variables were measured using content and linguistic analysis. Outcomes from these analyses were tested using two one-sided t tests (TOST) to test for equivalence. If TOST indicated equivalence or non-inferiority between venues, a stricter one-tailed t test was conducted to confirm the findings.

Research was conducted on focus groups (n = 18) from extant evaluation data measuring the self-determination outcomes of students with disabilities. This allowed for the analysis of disclosure of sensitive information with questions targeted at living with a disability. Students participated (n = 64) from three different states. The original evaluation employed a 3 x 3 Latin square design to control for gender, state, and focus group venue.

Results revealed face-to-face focus group venues are unequaled in the area of participant interactions. The telephone venue provided a second choice for research projects whose goal is to extract depth of conversation or keep participants on-topic. However, if the main goal is to access sensitive information, the telephone venue appeared the most suitable. The Internet video-based focus group venue may provide a viable option to explore breadth or depth of information. Nonetheless, the Internet video-based venue only proved equivalent to the telephone focus group venue for participant interactions.

Findings suggest a researcher needs to carefully consider the potential effects of focus group venue. Further, the researcher needs to allow the research question and design to guide how a focus group venue is chosen. This study provides practical insight regarding the use of telephone and Internet video-based focus group venues and offers much potential for future research.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access