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Tips for Effective Online Research Design

How to optimise research design for the online research community or ad-hoc online qual project. These rules make for an effective online research design and, in turn, result in better response and happier participants.

Tips for online research design

The team here at Dub spend countless hours helping clients (agencies and brands) optimise their research design for the online research community or ad-hoc online qual project that lays ahead. As the relationship with our client extends, the support we give them sees us transfer the knowledge and experience of online research design we have, to the point where the level of help and support they need is simply in applying some of the rules surrounding tone-of-voice and audience engagement.

When applied correctly, these rules make for an effective online research design and, in turn, result in better response and happier participants. So without further ado, here are some of the top tips that, when applied, will turn your online research design from being good to great!


Talk like a person, not a corporation

Remove any potential ‘corporate’ speak that implies laziness and a lack of thinking, such as ‘tell us what you think’. These are not good at building a sense of community since they can make the moderator appear distant and disengaged


Engage, question, probe

When constructing a question, lead with an explanation of the objectives, then supply the question, and finally weave in more information and as and when you probe (or comment) on their post. Building the conversation in this way helps to establish the participants confidence and expand their response with greater ease and enjoyment.


Talk ‘to’ people, not ‘at’ them

Communicate with your participants as you would in everyday life. Write in the 1st person and show that you are a real person who will acknowledge and support them through the project or community. Knowing there is someone, a real person, listening and responding helps create a sense of community and builds relationships.


Identify the active participants early on, and harness their energy

As you build your community, you’ll begin to see patterns of participation and spot some of the more active and willing members. Work with these people and use them to help encourage others to speak up if they are lagging. So for example, ‘I’d love to hear your thoughts on this Ian and Amanda’.


Combine open and closed questions

We always encourage our clients to be creative and write research that allows the respondents to creatively express themselves using the range of tools available. But at the same time, we emphasis the need to combine open and closed questions to provide a change of pace and offer some respite.


Don’t be afraid to offer your opinion during the course of a task

You’re likely to be asking for the opinions of your participants throughout the life of your community, so don’t be afraid to offer your own as a way of encouragement. However, this is research so don’t bias the response, only offer up your opinion to help lift the level of response and get deeper into the conversations.


Use narrative

When constructing your questions or discussion, try and write it as though it were a story, with a clear beginning, middle and end. By this we mean frame the question. Tell them whey you are asking the question, and why you want their feedback, then drop the question or task, and finally explain what you have found out and what, if possible, you will do with their response. Online research gives you the opportunity to share feedback in a constructive way, and this is a great way of retaining attention and motivating on going participation since your participants feel as though they are genuinely contributing to something meaningful, rather than just being raped of their time for little else than cash.


Be yourself, interact

Despite not being with your participants in person, it is still possible to come across as a genuine person who cares passionately about the subject and who is going to be supportive. Try to interact with respondents as much as possible through ‘commenting’, even if it’s simply to say ‘thanks for your response’. The more effort you put into this, the more relaxed, open, communicative and natural your participants will be.


his content was provided by Dub. Visit their website at

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London, , United Kingdom
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About Further:
Online Qualitative Research, Market Research, Online Communities, Self-ethnography, Customer Insights, Decision Making

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