Qualitative vs Quantitative Research: 9 Pros of Online Discussion

Qualitative Research
Qualitative vs Quantitative Research: 9 Pros of Online Discussion

Both Qualitative and Quantitative Research methods are important for gaining different kinds of information. Learn how you can benefit by blending both qualitative and quantitative research methods together in an Online Discussion Focus Group. Combining discussion with polls in one research project.   

In this blog, I will outline the pros and cons of qualitative and quantitative research and explain how Online Discussion Focus Groups can provide the best of both worlds and make it easier to attain your research goals.

This Qualitative versus Quantitative blog will cover:

  • Qualitative research and quantitative research definitions
  • Pros and cons of qualitative and quantitative research
  • How Online Discussion Focus Groups seamlessly combine discussion with polls

What is Qualitative Research?

Traditional in-person focus group
Qualitative research is language based and focuses on ‘why’ and ‘how’ using open-ended questions. It is used to gain insight and understanding of underlying reasons, motivations, and opinions. Through discussion and probing by an experienced moderator, broad patterns of responses are identified amongst groups of participants. 

An example of a qualitative research open-ended question:

‘Please share your experience… and elaborate on how it made you feel’.

Qualitative research methods include:

  1. Traditional in-person focus groups
  2. Online discussion focus groups
  3. One-on-one in-depth interviews

More depth and reasons behind an opinion

Using open-ended questions, qualitative research involves direct discussions to better understand concepts, thoughts, and experiences and what drives consumer behaviour. It adds depth and helps businesses understand the reasoning behind an opinion or behaviour. Findings and verbatim quotations are conveyed in words, by discovering commonalities in free text responses.

Qualitative Research Benefits

Qualitative findings tend to be more in-depth than quantitative research. By asking the ‘how’ and ‘why’, it digs deeper than numerical data. 

Qualitative Research Disadvantages

Qualitative research tends to cost more than quantitative research with higher overheads and more input and time required from participants.

Qualitative research projects often take longer for both the data collection and the analysis of the discussion. For example:

  • A traditional focus group will often include 8 – 10 participants and run for 1.5 - 2 hours. For one research project you may need 3 or 4 in-person groups. Typically, up to 8 hours of verbal communication output from the groups is recorded, transcribed, and summarised before analysis begins.

What is Quantitative Research?  


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Colourful graphs generated by the online survey software 
Whereas quantitative research uses larger samples and focuses on the collection and analysis of numerical data to identify patterns.  The focus is on closed ended questions, numbers, and statistics.  The raw data can be analysed, ranked and cross tabulated and used to identify trends over time. Typically, reporting includes colourful graphs generated by online survey software as well as tables displaying demographic cross tabulations to delve further into the numbers.  

An example of a quantitative research question:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate your satisfaction with your overall experience at the cafe today. Respondents then choose from the fixed responses 1 – 5.

Quantitative research methods include:

  1. Surveys with closed ended responses (online, in-person, or phone) 
  2. Polls
  3. Observations recorded as numbers

Online surveys are easy to use and cost less

Online surveys are the most used quantitative research method and businesses often conduct their own research using tools such as Survey Monkey. Most online survey platforms are intuitive and provide auto generated graphs and easy-to-share reporting. Findings are mainly conveyed by numbers, graphs and tables.

In our experience, especially when there is access to an accurate database of representative respondents, quantitative research tends to cost less than more in-depth and interactive qualitative research.  

Quantitative Research Benefits

The processes for creating online surveys and the pre-set result formats are similar across most online platforms, so it is often a relatively straightforward process to carry out quantitative research. With a trustworthy database and robust sample, numerical data is considered reliable and accurate with minimal bias.  

As it is more standardised, quantitative research typically costs less than qualitative research and many businesses today conduct their own online surveys subscribing to platforms such as Survey Monkey. 

Quantitative Research Disadvantages

Although quantitative research is well suited to empirical focused projects, it does not always tell you the full story. Sometimes it is important to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the data. 

What is an Online Discussion Focus Group?  

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Online discussion focus group using preferred devices

An online discussion focus group is an interactive written dialogue often running over 3 days.   Using their preferred device, a panel of up to 30 pre-selected participants, login to a moderated online research platform.  The platform is designed for written questions, responses, and shared discussion.

An online focus group is a powerful qualitative research tool to anonymously reflect on thoughts and experiences to set questions, provide written responses to both open and closed ended questions and be included in penned group discussion with other participants in the group.

A Blend of Both Qualitative and Quantitative

When developing the structured discussion guide for an Online Discussion Group, we work out which questions are well-suited to open ended questions and which ones are better suited to a single or multiple-choice poll. Often a poll is followed by open text questions to flesh out relevant information.

A question suited to a single choice poll with closed ended responses:

  • Do you subscribe to online blogs? With response options yes and no

This poll could then be followed by an open-ended question such as:

  • Please share which online blogs you subscribe to and why you follow them.

9 Benefits of Polls Within an Online Discussion

From the participants viewpoint benefits include:

  1. A poll is fast to answer.
  2. It adds interest and variety to a discussion with the poll result displayed as soon as they answer it.
  3. Polls also reduce the time taken to provide information so there is more time to reflect and expand on open text responses.

From an analysis point of view, there are several benefits:

  1. In an online discussion, all participants respond to every question, so every person responds to a poll.
  2. A full transcript is available of an online discussion, so it is easy to identify how each participant responded to a poll.
  3. A summary of poll responses provided in Word or Excel, is faster to understand than collating written responses.  
  4. Using pre-set demographic data fields, it is easy to determine how demographic profiles answered the poll.  
  5. The numerical poll results can be displayed in a table clearly identifying differences between demographic profile responses.  
  6. The final research report is a blend of qualitative in-depth insights backed up and supported with graphs and tables displaying quantitative numerical data.

Online Discussion Disadvantages

From a statistical viewpoint, a quantitative sample size of 380 responses is often considered robust and reliable data collection and 100 responses considered a minimum.  

However, we have found, a poll of 30 engaged and pre-selected participants in an online discussion focus group setting, still provides indicative insights and helps to paint a picture.  

In addition, poll data from our online discussions, often provides insights that are later used as the basis for larger scale quantitative research to validate and extend the qualitative research findings.


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High level of engagement online discussion


What Clients Say

Clients continue to be amazed at the high level of engagement and rich output from our online discussion boards. It is such a seamless way to combine both qualitative and quantitative research together in one project with the added benefit of creating a discussion around any aspects raised by participants.  

A client recently said to me when he reads feedback from a customer in a survey, he often wants to continue the conversation with the customer and ask them more about their comment - an online discussion board gives clients exactly that opportunity with participants available for discussion over a period of up to 3 days.  

Any research projects suited to a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches could benefit from this approach.

In Conclusion: Blend of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods  

In this blog, I have outlined the differences of qualitative and quantitative research methods, one primarily focused on words and the other on numbers. I have illustrated how Online Discussion Focus Groups can provide a blend of both methods with the combination of both interactive discussion and single and multiple-choice polls. This blend of methods results in deep insights as well as identifying areas for further study on a larger scale.  

Will online discussion focus group methodology be right for your next research project?

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Rachel Wells, Trailblazer Research.

Rachel is a fan of online discussion focus groups (AKA online bulletin boards, online forums, online panels) and the benefits of seamlessly combining both qualitative and quantitative methods in one research project.  Her goal - to help businesses like yours make better decisions based on rich customer insights.  

To understand how your next research project could benefit from using online discussion focus group methodology, please contact Rachel:


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