This paper presents findings from an experimental empirical study about web forum discussions as instruments for qualitative research inquiries. It focuses on written, asynchronous group discussions between absent communication partners and deals with autonomous group discussions instead of strongly structured focus groups. The autonomous development of subtopics by the group using written communication between absent partners is a particular challenge for both the researcher and the debaters. Under which conditions and using which techniques do qualitative group discussions using a web forum work successfully? Three aspects of running such discussions can be clarified: a surprisingly modest group size, a duration of two or three months and thematically reserved moderation but very “active reading” by the researcher produce positive results. Further research should study the function of multithreading, which was observed being used by the debaters.


Qualitative Methods, Online Research, Group Discussions, Web Forums, Written Inquiries

Author Bio(s)

Daniela Schiek is a post-doctoral researcher in ISP, postdoctoral lecture qualification in Sociology (2017), PhD in Sociology (2010), graduated in Sociology (2004). Her key activities are: Qualitative Social Research Methodology, Poverty, and Social Inequality. For further information see https://www.uni-due.de/biwi/ullrich/schiek.php.

Carsten G. Ullrich is Professor for Sociology and Qualitative Methods of Social Research in ISP. Postdoctoral lecture qualification in Sociology (2007), PhD in Sociology (1999), graduated in Sociology (1992). His key activities are: Qualitative Social Research Methodology, Social Policy, and Poverty. For further information see https://www.uni-due.de/biwi/ullrich/person.php.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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