MGI Tipster – Volume 11, Issue 5

May 17, 2012   |   Vol. 11   |   Issue 5
Next generation focus group research


Welcome to “what’s next in the evolution of the focus group”—the Bulletin Board Focus Group (BBFG). We all know that the focus group is a tried and true research tool for qualitative study of ideas, trends, and opinions on just about any subject where thoughts and impressions are collected.

Traditionally, staging a focus group has required selecting participants, assembling them, securing an appropriate setting in which to conduct the discussion, assigning an experienced moderator, obtaining dependable transcription equipment, and often supplying refreshments.

The BBFG is the next step in the evolution of qualitative research moving focus groups from the physical to the virtual using online resources. Marketing General Incorporated has used the BBFG method in several research projects and has found it effective, efficient, and a more than adequate substitute for the traditional focus group.

How It Works

Participants are typically recruited through email and asked to participate in the online focus group on a certain date or over several days, depending upon the length and scope of the research. To participate, the individuals in the group log on to a pre-designed bulletin board to access the questions and offer their typed answers. The sessions can be monitored by researchers at any time.

The Advantages of the Method

There are real savings in time and cost using the BBFG method. Participants need not meet in a group but can participate from home or wherever they have access to the Internet. Studies can be held any time and are not contingent on other meetings or conferences. Traditionally, focus groups have been held during these events to help defray the expense of assembling the group.

Rather than taking up a block of time dedicated to the session, BBFG participants can log on to the session on their own schedules. In addition, because the research is online, it becomes cost effective to include international participants—a group that has been both difficult and expensive to access using the traditional focus group. The conversations are already in typewritten form, eliminating the transcription step leading to final analysis.

The Advantages of Insight

Rather than managing the conversation as in a traditional focus group, researchers can engage the entire study group in one conversation, separate the participants into subgroups, isolate them entirely, and prevent them seeing other comments until all are completed to eliminate influences.

Researchers can interact with any or all participants in the BBFG to pose follow-up questions, insert comments, or direct the discussion as needed. The client for whom the study is being conducted can also be an active observer in the research, watching the discussions unfold in real time and directing the BBFG moderators to probe for greater detail from specific participants.

A Dynamic Addition

Because the medium is the Internet, researchers can post pictures, present videos, insert graphs, and upload documents for the participants to view and comment on. The enables a better understanding of discussion topics where graphics tell a story better than words alone.

Find Out More

To discuss the BBFG in greater depth, contact MGI’s Director of Research, Adina Wasserman, Ph.D., at 703.706.0373 or email her at

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