How to use Moderation Methods for Online Focus Groups and Address their Pitfalls

Diotima Bertel, Rusanna Gaber, Julia Himmelsbach, Rut Bermejo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Focus groups (FGs) are a well-known and widely established qualitative research method. When conducting them in an online setting, we are faced with specific challenges. In this article, we present a case study in which we conducted 14 focus groups with German adults regarding the future of work. Seven of these FGs were conducted online and seven face-to-face. Reflecting on the specific challenges but also on the advantages that online FGs provide, we focus on the role of the moderator. We complement the main case study with our experiences of organising FGs in other contexts, as well as our experiences as participants in FGs. Thus, we shed light on the planning and setting, the moderation flow, as well as specific ethical issues that moderators have to consider in online settings. We discuss how to foster discussion among participants, how to handle dynamics and hierarchies in groups, how to deal with technical challenges, how to best make use of technical tools, and how to ensure participants’ wellbeing. We provide practical tips and guidance for moderators, supporting them to foster inclusivity and a lively discussion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSage Research Methods: Doing Research Online
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2024

Research Field

  • Social and Sustainable Change


  • Focus Groups
  • Methodology
  • Online Research
  • Qualitative Research


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