Ad Hoc Research or Online Communities: How to Choose the Right Methodology

Different research challenges require various research solutions and knowing when to use a specific approach can certainly be a daunting task. This overview highlights some instances in which online communities may be preferred in place of custom ad hoc research.

Combination of Quant and Qual – Online communities offer researchers a solid opportunity to gather both quantitative and qualitative data at the same time and at a lower cost. Because most online community platforms have both quant and qual tools built in, research can be conducted much more quickly and efficiently than a combined qual-quant ad hoc study.

Demographic Segments – If you are looking to segment individuals based on demographics, online communities work well. Short surveys are used to profile individuals and then targeted research questions are presented to the entire group to pinpoint where profile differences emerge. Groups can also be formed based on demographics and targeted research can be conducted with specific sub groups. This approach can be achieved much more easily with an online community than with a long ad hoc questionnaire with skip logic that segments groups during the survey.

Regional, National, and International Research – If the research question requires insights from individuals who are geographically dispersed, an online community is an excellent research platform. If a wide scope is required, individuals can be recruited from different regions, provinces/states, and countries. Online communities are borderless and research can easily be conducted in several languages.

Engaging Research – In place of long and often boring surveys, try utilizing an online community to spice up your research questions and increase engagement. If your research topic is dull in survey form, consider an online community to allow for a more open forum for discussion. The community also allows for innovative approaches such as co-moderation, where a community member or members take an active role in conducting the research. Rather than gathering a lot of yes/no and scale answers, you can collect rich, organic data from engaged members whom you can return to for future research questions.