Very often online qualitative research methods are used to complement face to face groups, either for pre tasks or follow up research. Apart from saving time and money for the researcher compared with traditional methods for managing pre tasks, the online approach can improve the quality of the face to face research. Here we look at various ways in which this can happen.
1. Breaks the ice
Traditionally pre-tasks for face to face groups are undertaken by participants without interaction with other participants, and without interaction with the moderator. This might be completing a diary or doing a particular set of tasks, for example.
If you run your pre-tasks online then you can generate interaction between yourself and your participants and among participants. By “breaking the ice” in this way you will be able to cover more material in your face to face groups, because less time will be needed at the beginning to warm the participants up and put them at their ease.
2. Improves compliance
One of the problems with managing pre-tasks in the traditional way, rather than online, is monitoring and managing levels of compliance. Participants can easily turn up to face to face groups without having undertaken the pre-tasks to a satisfactory degree.
If you ask participants to record their pre-tasks online you can then much more easily monitor compliance, and contact those people who are not undertaking the activities you have asked them to do. This will mean your participants can make more valuable contributions to your face to face research.
3. Makes pre-tasks interactive
Another benefit of pre-tasks being managed online is that moderators can probe in order to generate richer insight. For example, if participants are meant to be keeping a diary then the moderator can ask them to provide more detail at the time. This can provide deeper foundations for the face to face research than would otherwise be possible.
4. Enables the inclusion of media
If pre tasks are managed online then this enables participants to more easily include media, such as images or videos in their diaries. This can help bring the subject to life, and encourage engagement during the face to face group research.
5. Allows introductory material to be covered in advance
Very often face to face groups will involve some time at the start getting participants thinking about the subject matter, before the discussion goes into greater depth. If participants have undertaken pre-tasks online, or if they have completed some introductory questions online before the face to face research begins, then they will already be more involved in the subject than would otherwise have been the case. This means that the introductory phase of the face to face research can take less time.
Apart from these five ways in which online qualitative research can be used before face to face groups take place, it can also be used afterwards. It just needs email addresses of participants, and then any face to face discussion can continue online at a later date.