The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Online qualitative research

Online qualitative research refers to all forms of qualitative research conducted online rather than face to face or via telephone. In addition to online focus groups and IDIs, it can include diaries, blogs, market research, online communities (MROCs) and ethnography.

An online approach can offer significant time and cost savings compared to other methods, and provides much greater convenience for researchers, participants and observers. Participants can also be recruited from online sources, such as databases, panels, or surveys, rather than just traditional means.

There are arguments as to which approach is “better” from a research point of view: traditional or online qualitative research. Some argue that a researcher has greater interpretative/impressionistic acuity in traditional research through access to participants’ tone of voice or body language but also clothes/image and peripheral ‘small talk”. Supporters of online qualitative research, however, feel that social pressure can prevent respondents from being as honest and forthright as they would be in an anonymous online environment where they can share their views with less fear of social sanction or recrimination. However, there is an increasing shift to a more pragmatic position , where the relative strengths of the two forms are appreciated, and the complementary potential utilised.


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