Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Use of WordPress in Online Focus Group Studies

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Use of WordPress in Online Focus Group Studies

Article excerpt

Focus groups have long been used as a qualitative research methodology to gather information on a particular topic in a non-threatening setting Adapting the traditional face-to-face (FTF) focus group to the online environment is a natural adaptation in the use of advanced technology for local and national research. The anonymity of the online environment is non-threatening allowing for open discussion. WordPress[R] provides a secure, easy to navigate website to conduct focus group research. Upon completion of a research study, the participant's typed responses can be downloaded into a Word document to upload in to a qualitative data analysis program. WordPress[R] provides the novice and experienced qualitative researcher an alternative to the traditional focus group. Keywords: Qualitative Research, Focus Groups, Online Focus Groups

Introduction

Focus groups have long been used as a qualitative research methodology to gather information on a particular topic in a non-threatening setting. Limited attention has been given to the impact of the Internet on the fastest growing segment of the marketing industry in promoting qualitative research in healthcare. Adapting the traditional face-to-face (FTF) focus group to the online environment is a natural adaptation in the use of advanced technology for local and national research. The low-cost of implementation and the ability to employ difficult-to-access groups are primary reasons for using the online environment for qualitative research (Nicholas et al., 2010; Watson, Peacock, & Jones, 2006). The purpose of this paper is to discuss adapting the focus group to the online environment using the blogging site WordPress[R].

Literature Review

Online focus groups take place in a virtual discussion room where participants can view, react, and respond to the moderator and fellow study participants. A primary concern of online focus groups is the quality of research and data collected (Bruggen & Willems, 2009); however, studies cited by Kenny (2005) identified the advantages of online focus groups outweighed research concerns. Issues of groupthink, social posturing, and dominant participants were not discovered in the majority of studies (Kenny, 2005). More individuals can participate anonymously providing a broader perspective (Watson et al., 2006). Evaluating qualitative research online requires reviewing the depth, breadth, efficiency, group dynamics, nonverbal expressions, and respondents (Bruggen & Willems, 2009).

Online discussions may lead to less in-depth information; however, anonymous online discussions may provide reflective, honest responses. Current studies vary in the area of breadth. Bruggen and Willems (2009) discovered via their literature review information from online asynchronous group discussions led to broader information than synchronous group discussions. An additional discovery was asynchronous group discussions provided deep information at the expense of breadth (Bruggen & Willems, 2009).

Efficiency was noted with synchronous focus groups. Immediate availability of a moderator to facilitate a discussion to answer the research questions encouraged efficiency. Group dynamics differs in written online discussions without nonverbal cues. Posture and facial expressions are not part of the group dynamic; however, written communication in the online environment has developed. Feelings are noted with the use of symbols, emoticons, emojis, or abbreviations, such as a smiley face or the term "LOL" meaning laugh-out-loud. Respondents or study participants are more likely to participate in an online focus group than an FTF focus group citing busy schedules (Bruggen & Willems, 2009; Watson et al., 2006).

The anonymity of the online environment is non-threatening allowing for open discussion. The virtual space of the online environment provides a neutral ground for the focus group where participants are equal. …

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