Toward Theory and Technique for Online Focus Groups

Toward Theory and Technique for Online Focus Groups

Albino Claudio Bosio (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, Italy), Guendaline Graffigna (Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy) and Edoardo Lozza (Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-970-0.ch014
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Abstract

Starting from a review of current dominant points of view about online focus groups, the authors outline the results of a research project in which they compared face-to-face discussion groups with different formats of online focus groups (forum; chat; forum plus chat) in order to identify their methodological specificities. The comparison was conducted with young adults on three health-related topics with different levels of social sensitivity. Systematic analysis of the conversational and thematic characteristics of all discussion transcripts revealed interesting characteristics of the four focus group techniques considered. The results corroborate the view that the research setting influences the findings production process in qualitative research, and might be the basis for a theory of online focus group techniques that can orient the researcher in choosing the online focus group technique best suited to his or her study aims and topics.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Health Education: Educational and communicative strategies aimed at promoting, maintaining or restoring safe practices related to health.

Online Focus Group: Qualitative research technique consisting of a group interview conducted by a moderator in an e-environment, focused on a specific research topic.

Online Chat: Online discussion whose participants access the Internet contemporaneously interacting in real time for around a couple of hours (as in a face-to-face exchange (synchronous communication).

Conversational Analysis: Qualitative data analysis strategy that is used to describe rhetoric and argumentative strategies, turn taking management and interpersonal negotiation processes in a communicative exchange transcript.

Theory of Technique: the analysis of how all the tactical choices embedded in (or supporting) findings production strategies influence the results of a research.

Content Analysis: Qualitative data analysis strategy that is used to describe main themes and content of a textual transcript.

Online Forum: This is a virtual board where participants can interact without their having to be online at the same time (asynchronous communication), as they write their messages and read others’ over periods of time that can vary from 4 days to several months.

Online Forum Plus Chat: This is a combination of the online forum and the online chat techniques which produce a more varied and detailed discussion and allows richer data collection

Discourse Analysis: Qualitative data analysis strategy that is used to explain what people do in their discourses, focusing on how the discourse is structured or organized to perform different functions and achieve various effects or consequences.

Face-to-Face Focus Groups: Qualitative research technique consisting of a group interview conducted by a moderator in a face-to-face research setting, usually with 6-8 participants, and focused on a specific research topic.

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