Pros and Cons of New Online Qualitative Research Tools

August 24, 2010

In recent years, the qualitative research field has seen an explosion of new online tools that make it possible to collect data in ways we couldn’t before. Some of the newer qualitative research techniques are:

  • Bulletin boards
  • Immersion IDI’s
  • Mobile qualitative
  • Quantitative-Qualitative hybrids
  • Real time chats
  • Research blogs

As well as:

  • Research communities
  • Social network monitoring
  • Video journals
  • Webcam focus groups
  • Web-Intercepts/chats

These new qualitative research techniques have often made qualitative research better, faster and cheaper. Studies using these online qualitative research techniques can be deployed pretty quickly and provide immediate access to transcripts or videos for review.

Another approach that is getting popular is hybrid research where quantitative and qualitative research are combined in one data collection opportunity. Hybrid research can also be done using Alchemer, which has the capability to integrate chat sessions from iModerate

The main of a hybrid approach are:

  • Immediacy since there isn’t a lag between quantitative and qualitative data collection
  • Can be very cost effective since cost incurred in recruitment, travel and focus group facilities can be eliminated
  • Ability to dive deep into the story behind the numbers
  • Ability to segment qualitative data together with quantitative results

Mobile qualitative research is also being considered as a data collection tool. This can be easy and comfortable for the participants, although it is currently limited to texting only. This technique can be used to reach difficult groups, send reminders about “homework” given to study participants, and do research at the point of consumption.

All these new techniques make the qualitative research field exciting and promising, but before jumping in, it is always important to have clear research objectives and then you can evaluate if these techniques are a good fit for what you want to accomplish.

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