Tips From a Bulletin Board Focus Group Newbie

It’s easy for us to give tips on all things online qualitative research — we’re the experts, after all! But that expertise might make us just a tiny bit jaded — we’ve been doing this for years, so of course we think it’s easy!

That’s why it was so refreshing to stumble across Michelle Finzel’s blog post detailing her first online qualitative research project. It’s a must-read for anyone considering taking the leap to the online qualitative side.

Finzel, who’s the vice president of full service research at Randallstown, Md.-based Maryland Marketing Source, provides a newbie’s perspective, explaining first what her hesitations were prior to starting the project: “Is three days long enough, or perhaps too long, for a bulletin-board to be open? How much probing is too much?” and the list goes on.

As all good researchers would, she then details her impressions of the bulletin board focus group methodology, explaining what she liked and what she struggled with.

She ends the post with advice for other online qualitative research newbies. Here are a few of our favorites from her suggested tips:

  • Stay tuned in during the study. “The platform might be asynchronous, but the research itself isn’t,” she says. “If you don’t check in often enough, the discussion could get away from you and you could miss key opportunities for following-up and digging deeper.”
  • Be flexible. “Just like when we conduct face-to-face qualitative research, the guide is an ever-changing document, and even though with online bulletin boards the guide is actually programmed, that doesn’t mean it can’t be altered to go with the flow as well,” Finzel explains.

What would you add to this list of tips for online qualitative research newbies? Please respond in the comments below.

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