Mobile & Online Qualitative Research: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Data quality matters. Regardless of the research method or approach, our ability to say anything meaningful about our research outcomes hinges on the integrity of the data. The greater care the researcher takes to ensure the basic ingredients of “good” research design, the more confident the researcher and importantly the user of the research will be in the recommendations drawn from the research and its ultimate usefulness.

This focus on data quality applies to all research. And although it is most often a topic of discussion among survey researchers, data quality considerations are increasingly (I hope!) a discussion among qualitative researchers as well. Indeed, the underlying validity of our qualitative data is an important consideration regardless of the researcher’s paradigm orientation or the qualitative method, including the more recent methodological options – that is, mobile and online qualitative research.

Mobile and online technology – in particular, tech solutions that combine observation with a multimethod/mode approach – offer qualitative researchers new ways to investigate a variety of situations that give them a closer understanding of participants’ lived experiences as never before possible. Three such situations are: Read Full Text

Beyond Saturation: Using Data Quality Indicators to Determine the Number of Focus Groups to Conduct

 The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 130-131).

Qualitative researchers are routinely faced with the decision of how many in-depth interviews (IDIs) orSaturation focus group discussions to conduct. This decision often revolves around time-cost-benefit trade-off considerations fueled by the tension between neither wanting to conduct too many nor too few IDIs or focus groups.

When it comes to the focus group method, the decision of how many group discussions to conduct is based on any number of factors and will vary depending on the situation for each study.  However, a few of the critical factors that the prudent researcher will think about when considering the number of discussions at the outset for any focus group study are the:

  • Geographic range of the target population, e.g., whether the target population for in-person groups is located in one city or spread across the U.S.
  • Depth of the discussions, i.e., the number of topics/issues and questions expected to be covered to satisfy research objectives. For example, fewer group discussions may be necessary if the primary research objective is to learn mothers’ preferences for shelf-stable baby food, while a greater number of groups may be needed if the objective is to understand mothers’ preferences across all types of baby food and, specifically, to investigate the priority they place on nutritional and organic foods.
  • Homogeneity or heterogeneity of the group participants. Using the example above, more groups will be required if the mothers of interest range in age from 25-40 years as well as in income level and if there is reason to believe that attitudes and behavior vary across these demographic characteristics.
  • Variation in results that is expected to occur across the different focus groups that will be conducted. If there is little variation expected from one group to another (e.g., if group participants are highly homogeneous, or the attitudes among participants in New York are not expected to be different than those in Dallas), then only a few focus groups may suffice.  If there is a great deal of variation expected, then many focus groups will be required to fully measure the range of experiences, attitudes, and knowledge the participants will have to impart in the discussions.
  • Project schedule and amount of available time to complete the study.
  • Research budget that is available to fund the study.

It is this assortment of factors that cause qualitative researchers to generally disagree on the optimal number of Read Full Text

Five Tech Solutions to Qualitative Data Collection: What Strengthens or Weakens Data Quality?

Qualitative researchers have increasingly new ways to engage with their participants. Beyond the traditional and still most frequent approach of the in-person mode, qualitative researchers have a host of technological solutions at their disposal. Instead of in-person focus group discussions, for instance, the researcher might opt for asynchronous focus groups. Or rather than in-person multiple methods qualitative research, the researcher might design an all-tech solution that blends online observation with asynchronous groups or any one of several technological options for the in-depth interview method such as mobile video or the email IDI.

The following is a presentation given at the2018 annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. This presentation discusses five tech solutions to qualitative research data collection with particular consideration given to the aspects of these approaches that strengthen or weaken data quality. These quality considerations are discussed from the perspective of the Total Quality Framework and, specifically, the Credibility component which has to do with qualitative data collection.

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