Avoiding Pitfalls and Realising Opportunities: Reflecting on Issues of Sampling and Recruitment for Online Focus Groups

Nicola Boydell, Gillian Fergie, Lisa McDaid, Shona Hilton

Abstract


The increasing prominence of the Internet in everyday life has prompted methodological innovations in qualitative research, particularly the adaptation of established methods of data collection for use online. The alternative online context brings with it both opportunities and challenges. To date the literature on online focus groups has focused mainly on the suitability of the method for qualitative data collection, and the development of approaches to facilitation that maximise interaction. By reflecting on our experiences of designing and attempting to recruit participants to online focus groups for two exploratory research projects, we aim to contribute some novel reflections around the less articulated issues of sampling and recruitment for online focus groups. In particular, we highlight potentially problematic issues around offline recruitment for an online method of data collection; the potential of using social media for recruitment; and the uncertainties around offering incentives in online recruitment, issues which have received little attention in the growing literature around online focus groups. More broadly, we recommend continued examination of online social practices and the social media environment to develop appropriate and timely online recruitment strategies and suggest further areas for future research and innovation.

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