A hybrid qualitative methodology provides multiple discovery channels to enrich learning and expand inclusive opportunities for participation.
At its core, hybrid qualitative research is based on the same fundamental principles and ideas, and designed to accomplish the same objectives, whether it is conducted using traditional methods, online, or telephone (tele-depths) assisted with an online stimulus presentation. In a focus group facility or via a virtual bulletin board system, the purpose is constant: to discover ‘POBA’s’ [Perceptions, Opinions, Beliefs, and Attitudes (penned by RIVA Market Research)].
The five prevalent electronic methods are:
- – Bulletin boards
- – Online IDI’s (supplemented with web cams)
- – Online communities/Chat rooms
- – Online focus groups
- – Electronic surveys
While these are not the only online qualitative research options, they represent the most widely utilized approaches.
When hybrid qualitative research utilizes remote (web) data collection tools, it is important to bear in mind that its power and relevance is not a substitute for traditional methods. There is no ‘virtual’ replacement for the value of in-person exploration and the power of discovery and nuance that result from the disciplines of psychology and sociology.
Traditional methods enhanced by innovative electronic methods, however, offer significant benefits. Hybrid qualitative research provides opportunities to deliver findings for situations that might not have allowed it before, and with audiences that were previously challenging to access.
Benefits of and recommended strategies for hybrid qualitative methods:
Stimulus can be presented and evaluated electronically, using tele-depths to prove reactions. Further, clients can ‘observe’ via webcasting technologies from various locations.
Bulletin Board postings over several days/weeks yield a richness absent from traditional methods. As participants respond over time, the opportunity to contemplate subject matter and/or process stimulus, results in deep learning.
Qualitative online surveys with participants prior to a focus group study can assist in shaping discussion points and save time by gathering top-of-mind data before discussions begin. Likewise, participation in a follow-up online survey post-groups/interviews can assess nagging questions that emerged during the research process.
The primary benefits of supportive online qualitative research are:
- – Speed: supportive studies can be deployed and completed in a matter of days, with transcripts instantly available for review.
- – Cost: no need for travel to facilities.
- – Geography: diverse groups of participants can be assembled for a single project easily and without requiring travel. Difficult-to-recruit, low-incidence groups are less of a challenge as well.
In discussing traditional and online qualitative research it is critical to remember each hinges on the same non-negotiable fact: the results will only be as good as the respondents involved. As unique as any one tool or methodology may be, the crux of the issue is ensuring that you are speaking with qualified respondents. The same quality measures employed in traditional projects should remain with online research, as well.
Although a few industry experts disagree, online “focus groups” do not replace traditional qualitative in-person methods. That said, online “focus groups” can be conducted effectively using smaller groups (3-4 participants) and narrow objectives. Online focus groups provide valuable data, albeit within limitations for application. Significant challenges exist in a chat room-type environment where multiple participants’ spontaneous responses to questions can dilute purpose and challenge researchers to understand, interpret, and analyze who is responding to what.
The most important selection discussion for qualitative research projects is a qualified researcher. An experienced researcher will guide you to the most effective methodology for your specific research in inquiry.
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