In-Person Versus Online Focus Group Discussions: A Comparative Analysis of Data Quality

Cory R. Woodyatt, Catherine A. Finneran, Rob Stephenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

191 Scopus citations


Online focus group discussions (FGDs) are becoming popular as a qualitative research method. Methodological examinations regarding the data quality of online versus more traditional in-person FGDs are limited. We compared two online FGDs with two in-person FGDs conducted with gay and bisexual men using a sensitive topic (the experience of intimate partner violence) to examine differences in data quality between the two methods. The online FGDs resulted in larger word count but were shorter in time than the in-person FGDs. There was high overlap in the themes generated across groups; however, the online discussions yielded one additional theme regarding a sensitive topic. In-person FGDs involved less sharing of in-depth stories, whereas sensitive topics were discussed more candidly in the online FGDs. The results illustrate that although the format of the data generated from each type of FGD may differ, the content of the data generated is remarkably similar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-749
Number of pages9
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2016


  • focus groups
  • online
  • qualitative methods, qualitative analysis
  • research, qualitative
  • violence


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