Despite the fact that there are several practical advantages of online typed focus groups, this type of group questioning has not spread as widely as had been expected when it appeared as a new research option. One of the reasons for that might be that a major risk of these text-based focus groups is inadequate data quality. Unless certain measures are taken to prevent this, an analysis can face the problem of not being rich enough and not digging deep enough – which are often important criteria for good qualitative analysis. This article discusses how to deal with the problem and other possible pitfalls of this type of group discussion, and gives practical advice on how to obtain the best results from such discussions. It also gives suggestions which can be useful if a free chat platform is being used to conduct these groups. It argues that even nowadays with other online techniques available, online text-based focus groups can be useful – if executed properly.


Qualitative Research, Focus Group, Online Focus Group, Text-Based Focus Group, Data Richness

Author Bio(s)

Lilla Vicsek,Ph.D. is Associate Professor at the Institute of Sociology and Social Policy at the Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary. She has been head of research/advisor/researcher/moderator in a large number of focus group research projects over the past fifteen years, both applied and academic research projects, including international research projects such as the research framework programs of the European Union (FP5, FP7, etc.). Her writings on focus group methodology have been taught at a number of universities (including University of Colorado, University of Southern California, and University of Utah) and the analysis framework she has devised for focus group discussions have been utilized by a range of research projects around the globe. Articles she has written on the results of her focus group research projects have appeared in recently in Science as Culture, New Genetics and Society, Science Communication, and Gender in Management, etc. Currently her main focus is on social aspects of reproductive technologies. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: lilla.vicsek@uni-corvinus.hu.


The author wishes to thank the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for supporting her work with a Bolyai Research Grant. The article was also made possible with a grant from OTKA/ NKFIH.

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