Edited by Helle Neergaard and Claire Leitch
One major disadvantage with face-to-face focus groups is the difficulty in recruiting participants from small populations and diverse geographical regions (Hughes and Lang 2004; Oringderff 2004; Brüggen and Willems 2009; Deggs et al. 2010). The rapid development and adoption of Internet technologies has, however, helped to overcome (minimize) this problem through the facilitation of on-line focus groups (Sweet 2001; O’Connor and Madge 2003; Stewart and Williams 2005; Stancanelli 2010). As noted by O’Connor and Madge (2003: 133), ‘[t]he attraction of cyberspace lies in its versatility as a research medium offering possibilities in an arena not restricted by geography and where researchers can interact with participants in ways which may not be possible in the real world.’ On-line focus groups can be conducted as either real-time synchronous discussions (similar to both the traditional and GSS methodologies discussed in the previous chapters) or asynchronous discussions, which might take place over many days or weeks. Each of these formats has its advantages and disadvantages. Before exploring the specific advantages and disadvantages of synchronous versus asynchronous on-line focus groups, however, it is worth summarizing the potential advantages and disadvantages of on-line versus traditional face-to-face focus groups more generally. It should also be noted that many of the advantages and disadvantages of on-line focus groups (compared to traditional focus groups) are the same as (or similar to) those associated with the GSS format discussed in the previous chapter.
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