How to Adapt Conventional Methodologies to an Online Format: Focus Groups

Abstract

Online focus groups are a qualitative method in which the different views and perspectives of research participants can be explored through the group interactions which participants have in response to focus group questions. Focus group discussions are facilitated online by a moderator. Data collection can take place online synchronously (at the same time) or asynchronously (with a delay between the delivery of questions and responses to questions, over a set time period, i.e., of days/weeks).

This How-to Guide provides a summary of how we can adapt focus groups to an online format and the forms that this can take. It outlines how the initial adaptations of focus groups for online spaces involved the use of online text-based chat forums. Today, however, the scope of online focus groups has widened to include their facilitation via audiovisual conferencing technologies and social media apps. The guide explains how to design online focus groups. It outlines how to select an audiovisual conferencing technology and make use of the different features on offer.

Following this overview, the guide will provide practical assistance to researchers who are utilising online focus groups. By drawing on contemporary examples of online focus groups, the guide will highlight important aspects for researchers to consider when designing their online focus group, including synchronicity, selection bias, technological and ethical considerations, and the nature of online communication and interactions. It also supports readers in considering the pros and cons of online focus groups and the importance of evaluation.

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