In discussing online qualitative research, it is important to bear in mind that its power and relevance stem not just from its potential to substitute for traditional offline methods. However, just as importantly, it is a way to allow companies to conduct qualitative research in situations that might not have allowed it beforehand, and with audiences that were previously harder to access.

Traditional qualitative studies are often ruled out as too expensive or time consuming—factors that remain critical barriers in today’s ever faster paced business community. However, the growing assortment of online qualitative tools has rendered many of these objections moot as the very real benefits become clear:

  • Speed: Studies can be deployed and completed in a matter of days, with transcripts instantly available for review.
  • Cost: Because moderators and clients do not need to travel to far-flung facilities, saings in both time and cost can be significant.
  • Geography: Diverse and wide-ranging groups of participants can be assembled for a single project easily and without requiring travel. Hard-to-recruit or low-incidence groups are less of a challenge as well.
  • Candor: Because the online setting affords participants a degree of privacy, they are often much more comfortable discussing sensitive topics and sharing unpopular opinions than they would be in a traditional face-to-face setting.
  • Access: Clients are able to view sessions in real time, interact with the moderator and provide feedback.
  • Relevance: Many respondents are comfortable with interactive communication and may embrace the opportunity to participate in research using online techniques that seem less intrusive than traditional methods.
via http://www.greenbook.org

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