7 Reasons Online Discussions are a Safe Place to Share: Case Study

Case Study
7 Reasons Online Discussions are a Safe Place to Share: Case Study
'It was a safe place for everyone to share their experiences as everyone remained anonymous.'

I would like to thank all the courageous women who shared their unplanned pregnancy journeys on our recent online discussion focus group. As Kiwis we need to talk more about sensitive and private topics and this anonymous online discussion methodology is a powerful research tool to do just that.

In this blog, I will lead you through a recent New Zealand market research case study, to reaffirm the validity and relevance of online discussion focus group methodology as a powerful way to have a real conversation with New Zealanders. The objective of these conversations to gain a better understanding and deep insights into private and sensitive issues facing New Zealand's society today.

Throughout this blog, participant feedback will highlight their views on the discussion and how they benefited from the experience.

'Thanks for this amazing opportunity. It was my first time saying / writing these things and sharing in a safe space. I would like more platforms like this discussion group where you can share your views.'

The Journey

This online research study followed the journey of 30 women from the flurry of emotions when they first realised they were experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, through their challenging and sometimes heart-breaking decision-making stage, and finished with the support, or lack of support, they received following their pregnancy.

'It is a highly sensitive topic, that can have such a wide range of emotions and experiences, both positive and negative but its important for women to be able to share all of those things so that others know its ok to feel those things and they're not alone in doing so.'

The women were extraordinarily candid about their personal experiences and found the moderated online discussion platform a safe place to share their most private thoughts.  From their shared experience of an unplanned pregnancy, although protected by anonymity, the women bonded with each other and were supportive and empathetic to other’s experiences.

'I actually really enjoyed myself, thank you so much for having me! I do wish I could have met some of these exceptional women in person, I really enjoyed hearing about their experiences!'


Compared to In-Person Focus Groups



Compared to a traditional in-person focus group with 8 to 10 participants in one room, the online panel of 30 participants had many advantages: 

  • The full transcript of the comprehensive discussion emphasised the considerable, unbiased, and valuable contribution from each of the 30 participants.
  • Anonymity encouraged open and honest discussion of incredibly private and sensitive experiences.
  • Lack of bias as each participant answered a question, before seeing any responses from other participants to that question.
  • The online discussion panel included all 30 participants which encouraged interaction across all demographic groups involved in the research.
  • Geographic spread of participants from Northland to Invercargill.

'Thanks so much for allowing me to be part of this research group. It was extremely interesting to see how different the experience was for everyone... its not something that is openly discussed so to hear all the different situations was a massive eye opener in the respect of you really have no idea what is going on in someone's life.'
'It was interesting to compare and read responses and it showed the different challenges people faced. It was a fantastic and interesting discussion to be part of.'

The Participants

Participants were all women of child-bearing age, living throughout New Zealand, and represented a broad range of socio-economic and ethnic groups.  Some women had experienced extreme hardships in their lives whereas others were just teens or older women in secure relationships.  

‘I really enjoyed it, I found that it was much easier to open up and talk about such a private matter because we were anonymous… To hear some courageous and amazing stories from other Kiwi woman was very inspiring and uplifting for me.’

Participants in this online discussion shared an unplanned pregnancy experience

How the Online Discussion Worked

The discussion included a mix of thought-provoking qualitative open text questions combined with quantitative multiple or single-choice polls.  Once a participant answered a set question, they could see and respond to earlier responses.  This created an interactive and encouraging environment with women opening up about experiencing similar situations or perhaps just showing they understood and cared.  

‘It was very enlightening and comforting to know that many women found themselves in the same situation as I previously had.  I love that we all had a safe space to talk about our experiences.’

The online discussion was actively moderated to probe for more in-depth responses as well as identify new threads for open discussion.  To interact with new posts, using a secure login, participants logged into the online platform multiple times during the 3-day research period.  

7 Reasons Online Discussions are a Safe Place to Share

  1. Anonymous
  2. Perceived as safe space by participants
  3. Can speak openly without judgement
  4. Opportunity to share views and experiences
  5. Healing and therapeutic
  6. Easy access for a broad range of demographics
  7. Active and empathetic moderation
'I really enjoyed this discussion, in some ways it was therapeutic to openly speak on my experience and hardship without judgement, almost the same relief or satisfaction you would receive from a counselling session.'  

In Conclusion: Safe Place to Share

This research study reiterated the immense value and appropriateness of the online discussion focus group methodology for the study of private and sensitive topics associated with social research.

'I can see great value and power in releasing through an online platform such as this.'

I have been told the insights from this research study are of global interest and far beyond a marketing report for one client. As a starting point, the findings will be published in medical journals with the hope they will trigger an ongoing conversation.

This study also highlighted as Kiwis we need to be able to talk and support each other through the challenges we face in life. Whether we need more moderated or unmoderated online platforms, better access to counselling, or both, the end-product needs to be a better support structure and greater understanding for Kiwis facing an emotional rollercoaster from life's challenges.

To learn more about online qualitative research methodologies, read about the 5 focus group methods available to New Zealand businesses.

Rachel Wells, Trailblazer Research

This research study was designed, written and moderated by Rachel Wells, business owner, Trailblazer Research. As a woman and mother, Rachel had great empathy for the courageous women who shared their journeys as part of this research. This project has reaffirmed the validity and relevance of online discussion focus group methodology as an ideal platform for those important conversations Kiwis need to have around private and sensitive issues impacting today's society.  

To find out if your next research project is suited to online forum methodology, please contact Rachel:


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