The methods literature regarding sampling in qualitative research is characterized by important inconsistencies and ambiguities, which can be problematic for students and researchers seeking a clear and coherent understanding. In this article we present insights about sampling in qualitative research derived from a systematic methods overview we conducted of the literature from three research traditions: grounded theory, phenomenology, and case study. We identified and selected influential methods literature from each tradition using a purposeful and transparent procedure, abstracted textual data using structured abstraction forms, and used a multistep approach for deriving conclusions from the data. We organize the findings from this review into eight topic sections corresponding to the major domains of sampling identified in the review process: definitions of sampling, usage of the term sampling strategy, purposeful sampling, theoretical sampling, sampling units, saturation, sample size, and the timing of sampling decisions. Within each section we summarize how the topic is characterized in the corresponding literature, present our comparative analysis of important differences among research traditions, and offer analytic comments on the findings for that topic. We identify several specific issues with the available guidance on certain topics, representing opportunities for future methods authors to improve our collective understanding.
Qualitative Research Methods, Sampling, Grounded Theory, Phenomenology, Case Study, Methods Literature, Literature Review, Systematic Review, Systematic Methods Overview
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Recommended APA Citation
Gentles, S. J., Charles, C., Ploeg, J., & McKibbon, K. (2015). Sampling in Qualitative Research: Insights from an Overview of the Methods Literature. The Qualitative Report, 20(11), 1772-1789. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2015.2373