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Setting Up a Qualitative Research Project Using an Online Community

Written by Julie Ellis and Megan McDowell

If you have chosen to use an online community for a qualitative research project, congratulations! Your choice will bring convenience, streamlined communication, easy data coding and a project turnaround time that exceeds your expectations. But, having an online community to run your qualitative research projects is not the only component necessary for project success. There are a number of best-practices and must-dos to also consider.

To start off, you must consider the objective of your online discussion and determine whether you would like your participants to interact with each other. For sensitive discussions, utilize a one-on-one discussion mode, like the diary-mode discussions offered on the Insightrix Communities platform. For discussions where interaction between participants is desired, use a bulletin board or nested discussion where participants can view each other’s comments and reply to them if they like. For this option, be sure to encourage participants to interact with one another by responding to posts and asking questions, especially in a conversation string where more than one person is involved.

Insightrix Communities online community software allows users to choose an image as a display for each discussion thread with the newly implemented tiled user interface on the home page. When choosing an image to represent your discussion, be careful that it is not suggestive or leading in any way.

Once the discussion is all set up there are several things to consider when informing your participants of activities in the online community. When first reaching out, begin with a brief introduction to the purpose of the community discussion. Communicating your overall purpose to participants will help them contribute the valuable information you are looking for. Additionally, provide participants with an overview of how the discussion will work and any guidelines or ground rules, such as timelines for responding. Let them know the level of engagement you are looking for and how often they are expected to login and participate. Provide participants with login instructions and an outline of how they will be informed of new discussion topics or threads.

When creating conversation threads, be clear about the purpose of each. Keep topic discussion questions succinct and focused. Avoid asking too many questions at once since participants may provide an incomplete answer, or not provide the level of detail you are looking for because they are trying to fit too much information into one response. Avoid long paragraphs of information or questioning when posting the discussion topic or replying to participant posts. Feel free to use bullet points and separate paragraphs to keep things readable.

Accessing an online community by mobile device is incredibly popular (convenience is the point!). Be conscious of this fact and ensure that the discussion is mobile optimized. Formatting such as bold or coloured font can draw attention to your key questions.

Also, relate on the human-level. Engagement and communication with a human, not a robot, is another key selling point of an online community. Depending on the audience, moderators should use relatively casual language to keep discussions easy and natural for participants.

We have panel management professionals on hand to answer any questions you may have about qualitative research projects using our platform. If you have any questions, please contact us!

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