Research methods: Online Qualitative Research

An online discussion forum can be used as an alternative to traditional focus groups.

These forums typically contain 10-30 participants, and run over 1-3 days. An online forum works like a mini-website which participants are invited engage with over a specified time period. Online qualitative work from DRG can be particularly useful for gaining feedback on creative work or ideas.

The forum is designed and moderated by a researcher to ensure the line of questioning meets the client’s objectives, and participants are engaging fully. Questioning within online forums is very versatile. Stand-alone questions can be posed, public polls can be set-up, and discussion threads can be opened. Creative stimuli can be featured within any question. The researcher can log in to prompt participants at any stage, and Five by Five could log in to observe the forum live at any point.

Online forum benefits include:

  • The ability to recruit individuals from across wide geographic areas, reducing the chances of like-mindedness based on geographic location
  • Participants have a longer period to form more considered opinions to questions or revisit threads of conversation, this also gives more time for shared viewpoints or differences of opinion to build up in the discussion threads
  • If desired, certain questions or discussion threads can be open only to specific sub-groups or those who give specific answers at earlier questions e.g. female participants who indicate they dislike a particular creative could be invited into a discussion thread to discuss why they dislike it and how it could be improved
  • Questions can be set up as ‘unbiased’ – meaning participants have to provide their answer before they can see those of other participants
  • As an anonymous environment, participants are often more candid, the peer pressure ‘loudest voice in the room’ factor is reduced, and sensitive topics can be discussed more easily
  • This methodology can be more cost effective than traditional focus groups

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