Using the vignette method with focus groups
The vignette method presents participants with a hypothetical scenario and asks them what they would do. They were used in my project to elicit attitudes and beliefs towards religious practices.
Religion can be a difficult subject for children to talk about, especially if they have experienced racist or religious bullying. The vignettes offered them the opportunity to discuss the topic without revealing any personal experiences. The technique was also valuable in showing gender differences across a range of religious understandings, attitudes, behaviours and experiences.
The first of the vignettes described a Muslim girl who was feeling stressed about her homework and upcoming exams. Her mum suggested she recite a prayer before starting her work. Participants were asked to respond to the suggestion and consider whether this was helpful advice.
This is the range of answers children volunteered in response to this vignette.
A: That's really helpful, Allah will guide your way
Z: Allah will accept her dua (prayer)
C: It's good advice
Researcher: Why is it good advice?
A: Because she can connect with Allah, and it will make it easier for her to do the rest (of her work) without any worries
C: You feel sort of calmer
F: She can close her eyes when she says it (the prayer), that could help
This extract reveals how vignettes can elicit different responses from children and how they can freely communicate their reactions. These children, to varying degrees and for slightly different reasons, believed that saying prayers can help a person feel less stressed.