Research News Live

How to propose the right online qualitative method

This is the second of a four part series from The Research Society presenter, Tom Woodnutt.


If a client asks for online qualitative research, most researchers will default to realtime webcam groups.  Although this may be an easy option to propose, it is not creating most value for clients.  

It is easier to propose webcam groups because you can take a rate card approach (their length is finite and the technology is familiar). However, webcam based qual has many shortcomings.   

I believe there is more value for clients in asynchronous mobile and online methods (i.e. when questions are not answered in realtime and are instead, spread across a few days).  However, working out the right method, technology and cost for ‘asynchronous’, is far harder.  

Asynchronous online and mobile qual methods create more value than realtime webcam groups, because they reduce research effects and are more valid, they allow greater depth of response and feedback is more vivid (due to participants’ video and photography).  However, it is also harder to get the cost right.   

In real time webcam groups, you have a captive audience for a set period of time.  So there is a time cap on how much conversation you have to moderate and analyse.  In this way, estimating an accurate cost for webcam groups is easy.  Whereas in asynchronous groups, because participants have more time to answer your questions, you easily end up with vast quantities of feedback.  So this makes estimating the consultancy in advance far more difficult.  

The solution is to be clear on your assumptions when you cost and to make them explicit in your proposal. Be clear on the number of questions, volume of stimulus and level of probing you are committing to.  And clarify how much participant input you are expecting.  In my course I’ll share the fail-safe consultancy calculation that I use, which is based on number of participants, questions and the time it takes you to process their feedback. 

In real time webcam groups it’s also easier to decide on the technology. You can either go for a bespoke research platform (if you need specialist tools like marking up stimulus).  Or you can go for a mainstream webcam technology. Whereas in asynchronous online and mobile qual you have a vast range of tools. To make the right choice in technology you need to be clear on the inputs, outputs and pricing plan that fit with your specific project.    


If you want to learn how to choose the right method, technology and cost in asynchronous online and mobile methods, check out Tom’s upcoming course with The Research Society – starting 16 March. Learn more about our ‘Mastering Online and Mobile Qualitative Research’ Masterclass here

If you or your team are looking for an introduction to qualitative research the Research Society’s popular Fundamentals of Qualitative is also running on 18 & 19 March (2 half days). Find out more here.

Author: Tom Woodnutt

Tom is an award winning strategist and researcher with expertise in online and mobile qualitative research.  He ran his first online qual project back in 2007 and today, his consultancy Feeling Mutual, specialises in online qualitative methods.  He runs training for leading research and digital agencies and has been a digital skills trainer for the AQR (Association of Qualitative Researchers). Clients include Sony, BBC and a number of other global brands.

About The Research Society 1084 Articles
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