“All About Excellence in Research”


Dyads and Triads: Powerful Alternatives to Traditional Focus Groups

Send Participants “Off to the Races!”

Have you ever talked casually with several family members, close friends or valued co-workers and the vibes and communication really clicked and provided stimulating food for thought?  The others were as eager and interested in your ideas and opinions as you were in theirs. The interaction met all of your needs for information, communication, comradeship, fresh perspectives, new ideas, comfort or even humor. You felt affirmed, energized and elevated by the sharing you gave and received.


With qualitative research the use of dyads and triads fosters this kind of vigorous interaction, and leads to superior research findings.  Rather than the usual “ping pong ball” of having the moderator pose a question and the participants swat back their responses, the intimate setting and smaller scale of dyads and triads allow the participants to set the pace and provide free flowing, revealing responses.

Many business decision makers believe the only option for qualitative research is a traditional focus group of 8 to 12 pre-screened participants gathered in a conference room and led by a skilled moderator. But dyads (two participants) and triads (three participants) are a qualitative research technique that can yield rich results, especially for sensitive topics and among individuals who are private, closed and/or skittish.

A definition1 states:

[Dyads and Triads] are the simplest human groups that can be studied and are mostly [considered by] microsociology.

A [dyad or] triad can be viewed as a group of [two or] three people that can create different group interactions.


Given their roots in sociology, dyads and triads were important because of how these small groups shape society, and how communication plays a role in different relationships scenarios.2 But the value of dyads and triads in qualitative research is that they replicate how information is acquired, how thinking is processed and how decisions are made – in small groups of opinion leaders and influential peers.

I have used dyads and triads with great success in researching participants from very private, closed, fraternal groups about sensitive, confidential topics. My job was to set the stage and then get out of the way. Once I got them started they were “off to the races;” their own remarks and opinions shaped crucial decisions about the topics they discussed.

In planning qualitative research, marketing professionals will benefit by considering dyads and triads among the array of options for effective research design. Contact us to help you apply these valuable tools where they will yield the richest information.

Thank you for reading. I wish you continued success and excellence.

Judy, Judith C. Allen, President, Excellence Zone Marketing Strategies, Inc.

Next time we will share information on the art of moderating focus groups. Please join us!


This “All About Excellence in Research” blog provides service to decision makers for growing businesses. I would like for you to know me, my flava and how I do biz. Please advance our community by sharing your questions and observations in our comments section.


2“Georg Simmel and Avant-Garde Sociology: The Birth of Modernity, 1880 to 1920”. Contemporary sociology (Washington). 32. ISSN 0094-3061.

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