The paper analyses the impact of the use of computer technologies on qualitative research methodology and data analysis (Perrott 2000; Evans, 2006), focusing in particular on online focus groups (Krueger and Casey, 2000; Stewart and Williams, 2005). After a brief historical excursus of the development of this technique in social research, the paper describes and compares the methods of conducting a focus group in “traditional” (face to face) and online environments (Walston and Lissitz, 2000; Mann and Stewart, 2000). In doing so, some methodological issues are considered, like the recruitment of participants, the size and composition of groups, the role and skills of the moderator, the interactivity among participants as well the data recording, their analysis and validity. Taking into account how choices between offline and online setting as well as design decision should be made in relation to the aims and goals of a research study, it is underlined how and under which circumstances the focus group might benefit from computer mediated communication technologies, both in synchronous and asynchronous modalities. These issues are deeply discussed drawing on practical examples of conducting synchronous online focus group concerning evaluation activities of an adult training course, showing various practical benefits both for researchers, both for participants, as well as some potential drawbacks and problems. Finally, the paper summarizes the advantages and limitations associated with online focus group and speculates on the possible evolutions of this method exploring the opportunities offered by the most recent developments of new technologies (like Second Life and various video conferencing applications). Taking into account also the debate around the possible perplexities and the criticisms advanced by some authors (Greenbaum, 2002; Denscombe, 2003), it has to be underlined that, beyond any diatribe, Internet methodologies offer interesting possibilities for conducting qualitative research using online group discussions and confirm themselves as valuable new tools for the social researchers.

Online and offline qualitative methods: some methodological considerations on focus groups and Internet opportunities

PANDOLFINI, VALERIA SILVIA
2011

Abstract

The paper analyses the impact of the use of computer technologies on qualitative research methodology and data analysis (Perrott 2000; Evans, 2006), focusing in particular on online focus groups (Krueger and Casey, 2000; Stewart and Williams, 2005). After a brief historical excursus of the development of this technique in social research, the paper describes and compares the methods of conducting a focus group in “traditional” (face to face) and online environments (Walston and Lissitz, 2000; Mann and Stewart, 2000). In doing so, some methodological issues are considered, like the recruitment of participants, the size and composition of groups, the role and skills of the moderator, the interactivity among participants as well the data recording, their analysis and validity. Taking into account how choices between offline and online setting as well as design decision should be made in relation to the aims and goals of a research study, it is underlined how and under which circumstances the focus group might benefit from computer mediated communication technologies, both in synchronous and asynchronous modalities. These issues are deeply discussed drawing on practical examples of conducting synchronous online focus group concerning evaluation activities of an adult training course, showing various practical benefits both for researchers, both for participants, as well as some potential drawbacks and problems. Finally, the paper summarizes the advantages and limitations associated with online focus group and speculates on the possible evolutions of this method exploring the opportunities offered by the most recent developments of new technologies (like Second Life and various video conferencing applications). Taking into account also the debate around the possible perplexities and the criticisms advanced by some authors (Greenbaum, 2002; Denscombe, 2003), it has to be underlined that, beyond any diatribe, Internet methodologies offer interesting possibilities for conducting qualitative research using online group discussions and confirm themselves as valuable new tools for the social researchers.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11567/722376
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact