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  1. Moloney, Margaret F. RN, PhD
  2. Dietrich, Alexa S.
  3. Strickland, Ora RN, PhD, FAAN
  4. Myerburg, Stuart JD


While the potential of Internet-based qualitative research methods is substantial, such methods are not without their problems. Some of these methodological challenges are unique to the medium, while others are similar to those of more traditional qualitative methods. This article presents some of these methodological challenges, and explores some of the issues involved in using on-line discussion boards as virtual focus groups in a study of perimenopausal women with migraines. Design of the study and its advantages and disadvantages are discussed, including the role of the moderator. Some of the problems encountered included potential for misunderstandings due to limits of written communications, and difficulty encouraging participation.


CENSUS FIGURES indicate that more than half of all US households (54 million, or 51%) have one or more computers. 1 Participation in on-line discussion boards and chat rooms has become a common practice over the past few years, and should continue to grow as more people have access to the Internet. Although chat rooms and discussion boards that focus on health issues are becoming more common, researchers have only recently begun to explore the use of Internet discussion boards for data collection. The purpose of this article is to present some of the issues that were involved in using on-line discussion boards to collect data on migraines in perimenopausal women.