The Total Quality Framework (TQF) offers researchers a way to think about basic research principles at each stage of the qualitative research process – data collection, analysis, reporting – with the goal of doing something of value with the outcomes (i.e., the usefulness of the research). The first of the four components of the TQF is Credibility which pertains to the data collection phase of a qualitative study. A detailed discussion of Credibility can be found in this 2017 Research Design Review article.
This article – and in similar fashion to the companion articles associated with the other three components of the TQF – explains the chief elements that define Credibility, stating that “credible qualitative research is the result of effectively managing data collection, paying particular attention to the two specific areas of Scope and Data Gathering.” Although a great deal of the discussions thus far have been centered on traditional qualitative methods, the increasingly important role of technological solutions in qualitative research makes it imperative that the discussion of Credibility (and the other TQF components) expand to the digital world.
The online asynchronous focus group (“bulletin board”) method has been around for a long time. It is clearly an approach that offers qualitative researchers many advantages over the face-to-face mode while also presenting challenges to the integrity of research design. The following presents a snapshot of the online bulletin board focus group method through the lens of the two main ingredients of the TQF Credibility component – Scope and Data Gathering. This snapshot is not an attempt to name all the strengths and limitations associated with the Credibility of the online asynchronous focus group method but rather highlight a few key considerations.
The assertions of marketing researchers (in particular) who continue to promote speed and techno-whiz over design principles leaves the rest of us wondering if rigorous design considerations really matter and whether we need to “buckle our seat belts” as we race to an anything-goes research paradigm. Marketing researchers (in particular) have been in this race for quite some time. Even before the Internet and all the gadgetry, there has been an over-emphasis on finding the path of least resistance – a path absent of speed limits and tolls, delivering results as quickly and cheaply as possible. The Internet and gadgetry have just transformed this path into a popular, well-paved superhighway.
No thought is given to the transferability of the outcomes.
The final deliverable is full of great – colorful, fun, creative – quotes and images.
There are as few demands as possible on the participants, and even the researcher.
An attempt to make meaningful connections based on how people think is nonexistent.
What if, instead of promoting the research superhighway, folks discussed with their buyers/users of research the design issues inherent in various approaches, the trade-offs involved, and how to construct the best-quality research design possible within the reality of cost and time parameters. The superhighway is great for advancing the technology that advances our quality of life, including our ability to enjoy new options in our research designs. But when the highway itself becomes our focus – and not the quality measures in design that we know translate into reliable research – it may be time to take the next exit, turn off the engine, and just chill.