African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Recording of nonverbal communication during focus group discussions in health research

Brent C. Knoesen, Veonna Goliath, Zoleka Soji, Liana Steenkamp, Ilse Truter


Nonverbal communication is often neglected during the analysis of focus group discussions. The aim of this research was to review the literature regarding the recording of nonverbal communication during focus group discussions. Specific objectives were to identify the methods used to record the nonverbal communication during focus group discussions and how to integrate this component with the verbal communication data obtained. Although it is acknowledged in the literature that nonverbal communication impacts on the themes obtained from focus groups, no methodological guidance is provided for its recording during focus group discussions. There is a lack of literature on the methods used to record, decode and interpret nonverbal communication during focus group discussions. A tool was developed for observers to record the nonverbal communication of students. The tool was tested during focus group discussions in which students’ perceptions regarding substance abuse were explored. To test the tool, one focus group, consisting of eight to 10 randomly selected students, was conducted at each of the four Port Elizabeth campuses of the Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. The recording tool was not successful as important nonverbal observations identified and recorded during the discussions could not be linked to the specific verbal portion of the participants’ messages. Focus groups are vital in exploring the perceptions of people in health research. Themes identified from focus groups can be more meaningful if nonverbal communication, in addition to verbal communication, is also considered during data analysis.

Keywords: Focus group discussions, nonverbal communication, nonverbal communication recording tool, health research.

AJOL African Journals Online