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Qual Health Res. 2014 Mar;24(3):431-8. doi: 10.1177/1049732314523840. Epub 2014 Feb 26.

Comparing face-to-face and online qualitative research with people with multiple sclerosis.

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1La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.


We compared face-to-face focus groups and an online forum in qualitative research with people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and family members. Although the merits and challenges of online qualitative research have been considered by others, there is limited literature directly comparing these two data collection methods for people with disability or chronic illness. Twenty-seven people participated in one of four focus groups and 33 people took part in an online forum. Demographic and MS-related characteristics were similar between the two groups, with a slight nonsignificant trend toward nonmetropolitan residence in online forum participants. There was a high level of overlap in the themes generated between groups. Participant responses in the online forum were more succinct and on-topic, yet in the focus groups interaction was greater. Online qualitative research methods can facilitate research participation for people with chronic illness or disability, yielding generally comparable information to that gathered via face-to-face methods.


disability / disabled persons; focus groups; multiple sclerosis (MS); research, online; research, qualitative

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