Online Focus Groups: Specifics of Organization and Conduct
Keywords:online focus groups, recruitment of focus group participants, group dynamics, guide of focus group interview, moderator, qualitative methods of sociological research
The article provides a detailed analysis of key points of organizing and conducting online focus groups, identifies opportunities and limitations of the method, ways to eliminate / mitigate possible problems that a researcher may encounter using this method. Developments of own and experience of colleagues who began to actively use online focus groups during the quarantine period are systematized by such defining characteristics as: 1) expediency of using this method. Depending on the research topic and specifics of the target audience, online groups work on a goal of this research, which target auditory are active internet users and/or closed groups, groups of experts, small and simultaneously wide-spread in space; 2) ways and features of recruiting participants. Recruiting is provided not only by online panels and by using “snow-ball” method, but through the search in network interest groups, but, with required preliminary interview to define real motivation to participate and technical readiness of potential participants for online form of group work. If necessary, additional preliminary training is provided; 3) the specifics of the guide for the online focus group, which needs to carefully detalize for all the questions, instructions, regarding possible standard or non-standard situations, technical issues, in particular, due to not stable internet connection for all the participants; 4) problems and ways to maintain group dynamics, which are heading in direction of maximal proximity to online format, imitation of its conditions, variety of question forms, using of group tasks. Deciding of hardness/softness of requirements for focus-group participants organizing conditions needs special attention. 5) methods and techniques that have proven their effectiveness for the online format of focus groups – testing if internet-sites, video clips, some products and services, projective methodology usage etc.; 6) features of the moderator’s work (preparation, burnout problems overcoming etc.).
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