Here at Giraffe Insights it has been business as usual for the last 3 weeks with one exception, face-to-face communication has become a thing of the past. This will be the case for many businesses across the globe with meetings, workshops and quick catchups over a coffee taking place across a screen. As a research and insight agency this has also had implications for the way we conduct in particular our Qualitative research, with this now shifting to virtual only approaches.

How do we ensure we maintain the depth of Qualitative insights from online research?

As leading specialists in kids, youth and family research we have been proposing online qualitative first approaches for some time. Not least because digital communication is part of everyday life for the younger generation and with a safe and comfortable environment being paramount for a fruitful discussion, where better than your front room! But what are some of the techniques we should use to make sure we get the most out of our online research particularly when speaking to children and young people? Here we discuss three key areas of consideration.

1. Recruitment

Recruitment remains key and when it comes to conducting research online with younger audiences and the same rules apply as with face-to-face with some additional considerations to bear in mind.

  • First and foremost, obtaining the right level of consent is paramount for research with children and young people.
  • Consider structuring groups by school year and for those at secondary school keep gender specific where possible.
  • Ensure that respondents (or their parents) are set up with everything they need from a tech perspective in order to take part.
  • Select software that is accessible to everyone and doesn’t require a lot of extra time to set up or a degree to use!

2. The influence of others

Within any focus group there is the concern that respondents influence the views of others and this is no truer than when working with children and young people. Online approaches enable you to effectively manage this.

  • Set a pre-task to understand who they are as individuals ahead of attending the group. This is also a technique used to help build engagement prior to the group itself.
  • Use online tools that enable you to have a group discussion along with gaining individual feedback from respondents during the session.
  • Use text annotation where there are concepts and stimulus to review and ask for each to annotate individually before discussing as a collective.

3. Building rapport

It is rapport building that can take greater thought when using online techniques and undoubtedly where the moderator must work hardest. Building rapport with respondents is crucial to groups across the board but particularly with children and young people to enable them to feel confident in sharing their views.

  • Hold phone calls with respondents prior to a group to get them familiar with you as the moderator.
  • Set a pre-task using an ‘open’ bulletin board where they can post and chat to other members in the group beforehand.
  • Use ice breakers and games at the start of the group to get everyone familiar and comfortable – a technique that works on and offline.
  • Don’t be afraid to still incorporate activities and games throughout the discussion to maintain engagement and energy – it can be done!

So, is now the right time for research and should we consider online a valuable approach?

Many are unsure whether to wait until things return to ‘normal’ before undertaking research at all. Waiting for the world to return to what we once knew may never happen as our sense of ‘normal’ will undoubtedly be redefined. Businesses can’t stand still, and information has never been so powerful both to understand the now and to inform future direction and decision making.

It’s important to remember that as part of our research toolbox online approaches are not a compromise in a time where face-to-face is not possible, but rather a method that elicits great results when designed and set up in the right way. The golden rule to enrich a discussion is to invest in your respondents ahead of time to build rapport where human contact can’t do the hard work for you!

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