How to conduct focus groups online with MRQual

There are numerous reasons to conduct focus groups online rather than face-to-face. And for online groups, there are numerous advantages to using an asynchronous, rather than real-time video or chat room, approach.

For example, the software is easier to use, costs less, and does not require technical support from the provider. There is also less administration involved, especially on recruitment. But most importantly, it can give you good results, at least the equal of other approaches. You can read more here.

Discussion guide design

Questions and answers are posted in writing, so you need to begin by designing the discussion guide, or questionnaire. You can read a separate article on this here.

File uploads

In asynchronous groups both moderators and participants can upload images, videos or other types of file. In other words, moderators can show stimulus materials, and ask participants to upload files to illustrate their answers.

Number of participants

There would usually be anywhere from 10-30 participants in a group, per segment or per country. If you are not sure how many you need you can always contact us to talk it through.


Typically your recruitment would be undertaken the week before groups are due to take place. It would include ensuring that participants have registered for the group on the research software, rather than just agreeing to take part.


Asynchronous online focus groups are usually run over 3-4 consecutive days. This could be a Tuesday to Thursday or Friday. At the start of each day the moderator would post that day’s questions from the discussion guide. They would also email the participants to let them know about the new questions. Once the research is underway the moderator can also probe for further detail or clarification on any participants’ answers. When you conduct focus groups online the whole process of moderation is easier than it is for live groups, because there is less time pressure.

Participants typically spend 15-20 minutes a day, at whatever time they choose, answering the questions and responding to moderators’ probing.

Moderators can post different questions to different individual or groups of participants. Also, they can post new questions during the course of the research. Moderators can also choose to either prevent or allow participants to see each other’s answers to questions. And participants can choose to answer any question privately, so that only the moderator will see what they have written or uploaded.


Participants are paid their incentive at the end of the research, subject to a satisfactory level of engagement. Often we would pay incentives in the form of Amazon vouchers. These are popular with participants, and are easy to administer across different countries. Typically, we would give an incentive worth in the region of £20-£40.