Online Qualitative Research Techniques Review

Summary: Technology has led to the development of new online qualitative research techniques, which can make qualitative research better, faster, and cheaper (not always).

3 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on July 15, 2010
Topics: Market Research, Qualitative Research

Online Qualitative Research Techniques Review

Qualitative research is going beyond in-person focus groups and experiencing a revolution for the better. Jim Bryson, president of 20/20 Research recently did a great presentation at the Fort Worth monthly luncheon organized by the DFW AMA about the latest online qualitative research techniques.

Thanks to the development of new online platforms, the qualitative research field has seen an explosion of new online qualitative research techniques that makes it possible to collect data in ways we couldn’t before.

Among the new online qualitative research techniques, we now have:

  • Bulletin boards
  • Immersion IDI’s
  • Mobile qualitative
  • Quantitative-Qualitative hybrids
  • Real-time chats
  • Research blogs
  • Research communities
  • Social networking monitoring
  • Video journals
  • Webcam focus groups
  • Web-Intercepts/chats

These new online qualitative research techniques have often made qualitative research better, faster, and cheaper (not always). Studies using these online qualitative research techniques can be deployed pretty quickly and provide immediate access to transcripts or videos for review.

As for making qualitative research better, Bryson rightly points out the advantages of most of these methods:

  • Geography: it allows us to reach a wide range of people across different regions without travel
  • Candor: due to the privacy and confidentiality online, many participants feel more comfortable to discuss sensitive topics
  • Convenient access: both clients and participants can participate whenever is more convenient to them and their locations
  • Longitudinal capabilities: studies can be extended over time as long as needed to understand the groups of interest

Below are some of the most often used online qualitative techniques, their advantages, disadvantages, and applications according to Bryson:

Online Qualitative Research Techniques Comparison

Mobile qualitative research, according to Bryson, will definitely be part of market research’s near future. This can be easy and comfortable for the participants, although for now is limited to text only. This technique can be used for reaching difficult groups, send reminders about “homework” given to study participants, and do research at the point of consumption.

Another approach getting traction is a hybrid approach where quantitative and qualitative research are combined in one data collection opportunity. 20/20 Research, for example, offers a service called Quallink where participants start in a survey and then are enrolled in a qualitative study. 

The main advantages of a hybrid approach are:

  • Immediacy: there is no lag between quantitative and qualitative data collection
  • Can be very cost-effective since cost incurred in recruitment, travel and focus group facilities can be eliminated
  • Ability to do a deep-dive on the story behind the numbers
  • Ability to segment qualitative data together with quantitative results

There is no question that qualitative research has come a long way and that all these new techniques make this field exciting and promising, but before you get carried away by all the excitement, don’t forget to have clear research objectives and evaluate if these techniques are a good fit for what you want to accomplish.