Contrasting Internet and Face-to-Face Focus Groups for Children with Chronic Health Conditions: Outcomes and Participant Experiences

  • David B Nicholas University of Calgary
  • Lucy Lach McGill University
  • Gillian King Bloorview Kids Rehab
  • Marjorie Scott Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre
  • Katherine Boydell Hospital for Sick Children
  • Bonita J Sawatzky University of British Columbia
  • Joe Resiman Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
  • Erkia Schippel Hospital for Sick Children
  • Nancy L Young Laurentian University


In this study the authors examined Internet-mediated qualitative data collection methods among a sample of children with chronic health conditions. Specifically, focus groups via Internet technology were contrasted to traditional face-to-face focus groups. Internet focus groups consisted of asynchronous text-based chat rooms lasting a total of one week in duration. Participants comprised 23 children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or cystic fibrosis, who were assigned to either an Internet or face-to-face focus group. Focus group analysis and follow-up participant interviews identified a range of content outcomes and processes as well as participant experiences and preferences. Findings yielded differences in terms of the volume and nature of online and face-to-face data, and participants’ affinity to focus group modality appeared to reflect differences in participant expectations for social engagement and interaction. This study identifies both benefits and limitations of asynchronous, text-based online focus groups. Implications and recommendations are discussed.