Methodological Reflections on the Use of Asynchronous Online Focus Groups in Health Research

  • Sarah Williams University of Southampton
  • Maria Giatsi Clausen Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
  • Ann Robertson The University of Edinburgh
  • Susi Peacock Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
  • Kerri McPherson Glasgow Caledonian University


The Internet is increasingly used as a tool in qualitative research. In particular, asynchronous online focus groups are used when factors such as cost, time, or access to participants can make conducting face-to-face research difficult. In this article we consider key methodological issues involved in using asynchronous online focus groups to explore experiences of health and illness. The written nature of Internet communication, the lack of physical presence, and the asynchronous, longitudinal aspects enable participants who might not normally contribute to research studies to reflect on their personal stories before disclosing them to the researcher. Implications for study design, recruitment strategies, and ethics should be considered when deciding whether to use this method.

Author Biographies

Sarah Williams, University of Southampton
Research fellow, Psychology Department
Maria Giatsi Clausen, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Lecturer, Occupational Health
Ann Robertson, The University of Edinburgh
Research Fellow, Centre for Population Health Sciences
Susi Peacock, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Senior Lecturer, Centre of Academic Practice
Kerri McPherson, Glasgow Caledonian University
Senior lecturer, Department of Psychology