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Restrictions on social interaction and travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected how researchers approach fieldwork and data collection. Whilst online focus groups have received attention since the 2000s as a method for qualitative data collection, relatively little of the relevant literature appears to have made use of now ubiquitous video calling software and synchronous, interactive discussion tools. Our own experiences in organising fieldwork aimed at understanding the impact of different ‘future-proofing’ strategies for the European agri-food system during this period resulted in several methodological changes being made at short notice. We present an approach to converting in-person focus group to a virtual methodology and provide a checklist for researchers planning their own online focus groups. Our findings suggest data are comparable to in-person focus groups and factors influencing data quality during online focus groups can be safeguarded. There are several key steps, both before and during the focus groups, which can be taken to ensure the smooth running of such events. We share our reflections on this approach and provide a resource for other researchers moving to online-only data collection.
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