Technological advancements and ease of Internet accessibility have made using Internet-based audiovisual software a viable option for researchers conducting focus groups. Online platforms overcome any geographical limitations placed on sampling by the location of potential participants and so enhance opportunities for real-time discussions and data collection in groups that otherwise might not be feasible. Although researchers have been adopting Internet-based options for some time, empirical evaluations and published examples of focus groups conducted using audiovisual technology are sparse. It therefore cannot yet be established whether conducting focus groups in this way can truly mirror face-to-face discussions in achieving the authentic interaction to generate data. We use our experiences to add to the developing body of literature by analyzing our critical reflections on how procedural aspects had the potential to influence the data we collected using audiovisual technology to conduct synchronous focus groups. As part of a mixed methods study, we chose to conduct focus groups in this way to access geographically dispersed populations and to enhance sample variation. We conducted eight online focus groups using audiovisual technology with both academic researchers and health-care practitioners across the four regions of the United Kingdom. A reflexive journal was completed throughout the planning, conduct and analysis of the focus groups. Content analysis of journal entries was carried out to identify procedural factors that had the potential to affect the data collected during this study. Five themes were identified (Stability of group numbers, Technology, Environment, Evaluation, and Recruitment), incorporating several categories of issues for consideration. Combined with the reflections of the researcher and published experiences of others, suggested actions to minimize any potential impacts of issues which could affect interactions are presented to assist others who are contemplating this method of data collection.
- online focus groups
- audiovisual technology