Assessing the Effectiveness of Online Focus Groups Versus In-person Focus Groups

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Brendan Richard
thesis / dissertation description
Increasingly researchers are turning to online focus groups as a qualitative research method, yet rigorous methodological studies regarding the quantity, quality and diversity of the data generated relative to traditional in-person focus groups are limited. This study experimentally tests the idea generation capabilities of online text-based focus groups versus traditional in-person focus groups using sustainability in the hospitality industry as the idea generation topic. Participants were purposively sampled from the hospitality program at a large Southeastern university and randomly assigned into one of two treatment groups: online text-based or traditional in-person focus groups. The in-person focus groups resulted in a larger word count, and a higher number of ideas generated, although both in-person and online generated an equivalent number of unique ideas. The online focus group generated a comparable average quality of ideas and number of good ideas. There was a high degree of overlap in themes generated by both groups. The results show that online focus groups are capable of generating a comparable level of idea quantity, quality and diversity relative to in-person focus groups.