Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
Reporting on Sampling Strategies
From Qualitative Research to a Journal Article
Conference Proposals and Article Types
In qualitative studies, the sample usually depends on the key informants’ accessibility and willingness to participate in the research project. Purposeful sampling (rather than random sampling) is used to recruit volunteers with experiences related to the phenomenon under study (e.g., homeless military veterans, school superintendents fired from their jobs, emeritus faculty members who continue to publish after retirement, undocumented immigrants from Mexico). Researchers begin by enlisting participants from the target group. They then ask these participants to recommend other members of that group to add to the total number of key informants. The sample grows in size as the study gets rolling, hence this is referred to as “snowball sampling.” There is no argument made that this is a representative sample because the goal is to study individuals rather than to generalize from a sample to a population, as in quantitative research. Sometimes qualitative researchers go to a research site (such as a school) that has all the participants that they need. Therefore, in the sample section, researchers need to describe the number and type of participants in their study.
Fifteen teachers agreed to participate in the study. Snowball sampling was used to identify participants by asking each teacher who was interviewed to identify another teacher who had knowledge about the situation. While there is no definitive rule about the number of participants recommended for this type of qualitative study, several researchers have recommended between six and 30 informants, depending on the depth and duration of the interviews and observations (refs.). Some qualitative researchers have conducted single-subject studies in this field (refs); therefore, the researcher assumed that 15 teachers would provide sufficient varied and detailed accounts for the purposes of this study.