The first is that responses have contexts and carry referential meaning. Thus questions about events, activities, or other categories of experience cannot be understood without some consideration of how these events implicate other similar or contrasting events in a person's life Scheer and Luborsky This is particularly important for older people.
Second, individuals often actively interpret experience. That is to say, many people—but not all—actively work to consider their experience, put it in context, and understand it. Experience is not a fixed response. Further, the concern with meanings or of remaking meaning can be more emergent during some life stages and events or attention to certain kinds of meanings than others.
Examples of this include bereavement, retirement, ethnic identity, and personal life themes in later life. Third, certain categories of data do not have a separable existence apart from their occurrences embodied within routines and habits of the day and the body.
Consequently, qualitative research provides a context and facilitates a process of collaboration between researcher and informant. Fourth, interpretation, either as natural for the informant or facilitated in the research interview, is basically an action of interpretation of experience that makes reference to both sociocultural standards, be they general cultural standards or local community ones, as well as the ongoing template or matrix of individual experience.
Thus, for example, a person knows cultural ideals about a marriage, has some knowledge of other people's marriages, and has intimate knowledge of one's own. In the process of interpretation, all these levels come into play.
These issues occur over a variety of sampling frames and processing frameworks. There are three such sampling contexts. First, sampling for meaning occurs in relation to individuals as representatives of experiential types. Here, the goal is the elucidation of particular types of meaning or experience personal, setting-based, sociocultural , through inquiry about, discussion of, and conversation concerning experiences and the interpretation of events and social occur-rences.
The goal of sampling, in this case, is to produce collections of individuals from whom the nature of experience can be elicited through verbal descriptions and narrations. Second, sampling for meaning can occur in the context of an individual in a defined social process. An example here could include understanding the entry of a person into a medical practice as a patient, for the treatment of a disorder.
Qualitatively, we might wish to follow this person as she moves through medical channels, following referrals, tests, and the like.
Even beginning this research at a single primary physician, or with a sample of individuals who have a certain disorder, the structure of passage through a processing system may vary widely and complexly. However, given a fixed point of entry a medical practice or a single disease , sampling for meaning is nested in ongoing social processes.
Researchers wish to understand not only the patient's experience of this setting as she moves through it e. Finally, researchers may wish to consider sampling for meaning in a fixed social setting. An example might be a nursing home unit, with a more or less fixed number of residents, some stability but some change, and regular staff of several types representing distinctive organizational strata and interests administration, medicine, nursing, social work, aides, volunteers, family, or environmental services.
It is important to note that even though qualitative research focuses on the individual, subjectivity or individuality is not the only goal of study. Qualitative research can focus on the macrolevel. One basic goal of qualitative research in aging is to describe the contents of people's experiences of life, health, and disability.
It is true that much of the research to date treats the individual as the basic unit of analysis. Yet, the development of insights into the cultural construction of life experiences is an equal priority because cultural beliefs and values instill and shape powerful experiences, ideals, and motivations and shape how individuals make sense of and respond to events.
Studying how macrolevel cultural and community ideologies pattern the microlevel of individual life is part of a tradition stretching from Margaret Mead, Max Weber, Robert Merton, Talcott Parsons, to studies of physical and mental disabilities by Edgerton , Esteroff , and Murphy For example, Stouffer's pioneering of survey methods revealed that American soldiers in World War II responded to the shared adversity of combat differently according to personal expectations based on sociocultural value patterns and lived experiences.
These findings further illustrate Merton's theories of relative deprivation and reference groups, which point to the basis of individual well-being in basic processes of social comparison. The notion of stigma illustrates the micro- and the macrolevels of analyses.
For example, stigma theory's long reign in the social and political sciences and in clinical practice illustrates the micro- and macroqualitative perspectives. Stigma theory posits that individuals are socially marked or stigmatized by negative cultural evaluations because of visible differences or deformities, as defined by the community. Patterns of avoidance and denial of the disabled mark the socially conditioned feelings of revulsion, fear, or contagion.
Personal experiences of low self-esteem result when negative messages are internalized by, for example, persons with visible impairments, or the elderly in an ageist setting.
Management of social stigma by individuals and family is as much a focus as is management of impairments. Stigma is related significantly to compliance with prescribed adaptive devices Zola ; Luborsky a. A graphic case of this phenomenon are polio survivors who were homebound due to dependence on massive bedside artificial ventilators.
With the recent advent of portable ventilators, polio survivors gained the opportunity to become mobile and travel outside the home, but they did not adopt the new equipment, because the new independence was far outweighed by the public stigma they experienced Kaufert and Locker A final point is that sampling for meaning can also be examined in terms of sampling within the data collected. For example, the entire corpus of materials and observations with informants needs to be examined in the discovery and interpretive processes aimed at describing relevant units for analyses and dimensions of meaning.
This is in contrast to reading the texts to describe and confirm a finding without then systematically rereading the texts for sections that may provide alternative or contradictory interpretations. As discussed earlier, probability sampling techniques cannot be used for qualitative research by definition, because the members of the universe to be sampled are not known a priori, so it is not possible to draw elements for study in proportion to an as yet unknown distribution in the universe sampled.
A review of the few qualitative research publications that treat sampling issues at greater length e. A consensus among these authors is found in the paramount importance they assign to theory to guide the design and selection of samples Platt These are briefly reviewed as follows. First, convenience or opportunistic sampling is a technique that uses an open period of recruitment that continues until a set number of subjects, events, or institutions are enrolled.
Here, selection is based on a first-come, first-served basis. This approach is used in studies drawing on predefined populations such as participants in support groups or medical clinics.
Second, purposive sampling is a practice where subjects are intentionally selected to represent some explicit predefined traits or conditions. This is analogous to stratified samples in probability-based approaches. The goal here is to provide for relatively equal numbers of different elements or people to enable exploration and description of the conditions and meanings occurring within each of the study conditions.
The objective, however, is not to determine prevalence, incidence, or causes. Third, snowballing or word-of-mouth techniques make use of participants as referral sources. Participants recommend others they know who may be eligible. Fourth, quota sampling is a method for selecting numbers of subjects to represent the conditions to be studied rather than to represent the proportion of people in the universe.
The goal of quota sampling is to assure inclusion of people who may be underrepresented by convenience or purposeful sampling techniques. Fifth, case study Ragin and Becker ; Patton samples select a single individual, institution, or event as the total universe. A variant is the key-informant approach Spradley , or intensity sampling Patton where a subject who is expert in the topic of study serves to provide expert information on the specialized topic.
When qualitative perspectives are sought as part of clinical or survey studies, the purposive, quota, or case study sampling techniques are generally the most useful. How many subjects is the perennial question. There is seldom a simple answer to the question of sample or cell size in qualitative research. There is no single formula or criterion to use. The question of sample size cannot be determined by prior knowledge of effect sizes, numbers of variables, or numbers of analyses—these will be reported as findings.
Sample sizes in qualitative studies can only be set by reference to the specific aims and the methods of study, not in the abstract. The answer only emerges within a framework of clearly stated aims, methods, and goals and is conditioned by the availability of staff and economic resources.
In practice, from 12 to 26 people in each study cell seems just about right to most authors. In general, it should be noted that Americans have a propensity to define bigger as better and smaller as inferior. Quantitative researchers, in common with the general population, question such small sample sizes because they are habituated to opinion polls or epidemiology surveys based on hundreds or thousands of subjects.
However, sample sizes of less than 10 are common in many quantitative clinical and medical studies where statistical power analyses are provided based on the existence of very large effect sizes for the experimental versus control conditions. Other considerations in evaluating sample sizes are the resources, times, and reporting requirements. In anthropological field research, a customary formula is that of the one to seven: Thus, in studies that use more than one interviewer, the ability to collect data also increases the burden for analyses.
An outstanding volume exploring the logic, contributions, and dilemmas of case study research Ragin and Becker reports that survey researchers resort to case examples to explain ambiguities in their data, whereas qualitative researchers reach for descriptive statistics when they do not have a clear explanation for their observations. Again, the choice of sample size and group design is guided by the qualitative goal of describing the nature and contents of cultural, social, and personal values and experiences within specific conditions or circumstances, rather than of determining incidence and prevalence.
In the tradition of informant-based and of participatory research, it is assumed that all members of a community can provide useful information about the values, beliefs, or practices in question.
Experts provide detailed, specialized information, whereas nonexperts do so about daily life. In some cases, the choice is obvious, dictated by the topic of study, for example, childless elderly, retirees, people with chronic diseases or new disabilities.
In other cases, it is less obvious, as in studies of disease, for example, that require insights from sufferers but also from people not suffering to gain an understanding for comparison with the experiences and personal meanings of similar people without the condition.
Comparisons can be either on a group basis or matched more closely on a one-to-one basis for many traits e. However, given the labor-intensive nature of qualitative work, sometimes the rationale for including control groups of people who do not have the experiences is not justifiable. Currently, when constructing samples for single study groups, qualitative research appears to be about equally split in terms of seeking homogeneity or diversity. There is little debate or attention to these contrasting approaches.
For example, some argue that it is more important to represent a wide range of different types of people and experiences in order to represent the similarities and diversity in human experience, beliefs, and conditions e.
In contrast, others select informants to be relatively homogeneous on several characteristics to strengthen comparability within the sample as an aid to identifying similarities and diversity. To review, the authors suggest that explicit objective criteria to use for evaluating qualitative research designs do exist, but many of these focus on different issues and aspects of the research process, in comparison to issues for quantitative studies.
This article has discussed the guiding principles, features, and practices of sampling in qualitative research. The guiding rationale is that of the discovery of the insider's view of cultural and personal meanings and experience. Major features of sampling in qualitative research concern the issues of identifying the scope of the universe for sampling and the discovery of valid units for analyses. The practices of sampling, in comparison to quantitative research, are rooted in the application of multiple conceptual perspectives and interpretive stances to data collection and analyses that allow the development and evaluation of a multitude of meanings and experiences.
This article noted that sampling concerns are widespread in American culture rather than in the esoteric specialized concern of scientific endeavors Luborsky and Sankar Core scientific research principles are also basic cultural ideals Luborsky Knowledge about the rudimentary principles of research sampling is widespread outside of the research laboratory, particularly with the relatively new popularity of economic, political, and community polls as a staple of news reporting and political process in democratic governance.
Core questions about the size, sources, and features of participants are applied to construct research populations, courtroom juries, and districts to serve as electoral universes for politicians.
The cultural contexts and popular notions about sampling and sample size have an impact on scientific judgments. It is important to acknowledge the presence and influence of generalized social sensibilities or awareness about sampling issues. Such notions may have less direct impact on research in fields with long-established and formalized criteria and procedures for determining sample size and composition.
The generalized social notions may come to exert a greater influence as one moves across the spectrum of knowledge-building strategies to more qualitative and humanistic approaches. Even though such studies also have a long history of clearly articulated traditions of formal critiques e.
The authors suggested that some of the rancor between qualitative and quantitative approaches is rooted in deeper cultural tensions. Prototypic questions posed to qualitative research in interdisciplinary settings derive from both the application of frameworks derived from other disciplines' approaches to sampling as well as those of the reviewers as persons socialized into the community where the study is conceived and conducted.
Such concerns may be irrelevant or even counterproductive. The guiding logic of qualitative research, by design, generally prevents it from being able to fulfill the assumptions underlying statistical power analyses of research designs. The discovery-oriented goals, use of meanings as units of analyses, and interpretive methods of qualitative research dictate that the exact factors, dimensions, and distribution of phenomena identified as important for analyses may not always be specified prior to data analyses activities.
These emerge from the data analyses and are one of the major contributions of qualitative study. No standardized scales or tests exist yet to identify and describe new arenas of cultural, social, or personal meanings. Meaning does not conform to normative distributions by known factors. No probability models exist that would enable prediction of distributions of meanings needed to perform statistical power analyses. Qualitative studies however can, and should, be judged in terms of how well they meet the explicit goals and purposes relevant to such research.
The authors have suggested that the concept of qualitative clarity be developed to guide evaluations of sampling as an analog to the concept of statistical power. Qualitative clarity refers to principles that are relevant to the concerns of this type of research. That is, the adequacy of the strength and flexibility of the analytic tools used to develop knowledge during discovery procedures and interpretation can be evaluated even if the factors to be measured cannot be specified.
The term clarity conveys the aim of making explicit, for open discussion, the details of how the sample was assembled, the theoretical assumptions and the pragmatic constraints that influenced the sampling process. These are briefly described next. In the absence of standardized measures for assessing meaning, the analogous qualitative research tools are theory and discovery processes.
Strong and well-developed theoretical preparation is necessary to provide multiple and alternative interpretations of the data. The relative degree of theoretical development in a research proposal or manuscript is readily apparent in the text, for example, in terms of extended descriptions of different schools of thought and possible multiple contrasting of interpretive explanations for phenomena at hand. In brief, the authors argue that given the stated goal of sampling for meaning, qualitative research can be evaluated to assess if it has adequate numbers of conceptual perspectives that will enable the study to identify a variety of meanings and to critique multiple rich interpretations of the meanings.
Sampling within the data is another important design feature. The discovery of meaning should also include sampling within the data collected. The entire set of qualitative materials should be examined rather than selectively read after identifying certain parts of the text to describe and confirm a finding without reading for sections that may provide alternative or contradictory interpretations. As a second component of qualitative clarity, sensitivity to context refers to the contextual dimensions shaping the meanings studied.
It also refers to the historical settings of the scientific concepts used to frame the research questions and the methods. Researchers need to be continually attentive to examining the meanings and categories discovered for elements from the researchers' own cultural and personal backgrounds. The first of these contexts is familiar to gerontologists: Another more implicit contextual aspect to examine as part of the qualitative clarity analysis is evidence of a critical view of the methods and theories introduced by the investigators.
Because discovery of the insiders' perspective on cultural and personal meanings is a goal of qualitative study, it is important to keep an eye to biases derived from the intrusion of the researcher's own scientific categories. Qualitative research requires a critical stance as to both the kinds of information and the meanings discovered, and to the analytic categories guiding the interpretations.
One example is recent work that illustrates how traditional gerontological constructs for data collection and analyses do not correspond to the ways individuals themselves interpret their own activities, conditions, or label their identities e. A second example is the growing awareness of the extent to which past research tended to define problems of disability or depression narrowly in terms of the individual's ability, or failure, to adjust, without giving adequate attention to the societal level sources of the individual's distress Cohen and Sokolovsky Thus researchers need to demonstrate an awareness of how the particular questions guiding qualitative research, the methods and styles of analyses, are influenced by cultural and historical settings of the research Luborsky and Sankar in order to keep clear whose meanings are being reported.
Therefore, the researcher would select individuals from which to collect the data. This is called sampling. The group from which the data is drawn is a representative sample of the population the results of the study can be generalized to the population as a whole. The sample will be representative of the population if the researcher uses a random selection procedure to choose participants.
The group of units or individuals who have a legitimate chance of being selected are sometimes referred to as the sampling frame. If a researcher studied developmental milestones of preschool children and target licensed preschools to collect the data, the sampling frame would be all preschool aged children in those preschools.
Students in those preschools could then be selected at random through a systematic method to participate in the study. This does, however, lead to a discussion of biases in research. For example, low-income children may be less likely to be enrolled in preschool and therefore, may be excluded from the study.
Extra care has to be taken to control biases when determining sampling techniques. There are two main types of sampling: The difference between the two types is whether or not the sampling selection involves randomization.
Randomization occurs when all members of the sampling frame have an equal opportunity of being selected for the study. Following is a discussion of probability and non-probability sampling and the different types of each.
Probability Sampling — Uses randomization and takes steps to ensure all members of a population have a chance of being selected. Using this list, a random sample of villages is chosen and a defined number of adults in the selected villages are interviewed.
A multi-stage sampling procedure is carried out in phases and usually involves more than one sampling method. In very large and diverse populations sampling may be done in two or more stages. This is often the case in community-based studies, in which the people to be interviewed are from different villages, and the villages have to be chosen from different areas. The district is composed of six wards and each ward has between six and nine villages.
The following four-stage sampling procedure could be performed: For each village select 10 households. Because simply choosing households in the centre of the village would produce a biased sample, the following systematic sampling procedure is proposed: If you reach the boundary of the village and you still do not have 10 households, return to the centre of the village, walk in the opposite direction and continue to select your sample in the same way until you have If there is nobody in a chosen household, take the next nearest one.
Decide beforehand who to interview for example, the head of the household, if present, or the oldest adult who lives there and who is available. Initially a sampling frame of clusters is sufficient. Only within the clusters that are finally selected do we need to list and sample the individual units. The likelihood of the sample not being representative depends mainly on the number of clusters selected in the first stage. The larger the number of clusters, the greater the likelihood that the sample will be representative.
Five probability sampling methods are discussed below: Simple random sampling This is the simplest form of probability sampling. Systematic sampling In systematic sampling, individuals or households are chosen at regular intervals from the sampling frame. Stratified sampling The simple random sampling method described above does not ensure that the proportion of some individuals with certain characteristics will be included.
Cluster sampling It may be difficult or impossible to take a simple random sample of the units of the study population, either because a complete sampling frame does not exist or because of other logistical difficulties e. Multi-stage sampling A multi-stage sampling procedure is carried out in phases and usually involves more than one sampling method.
Select three wards out of the six by simple random sampling. For each ward, select five villages by simple random sampling 15 villages in total. Strengths and weaknesses of cluster and multi-stage sampling The strengths of cluster and multi-stage sampling are that: The weakness of cluster and multi-stage sampling is that:
Sampling Methods. Sampling and types of sampling methods commonly used in quantitative research are discussed in the following module. Learning Objectives: Define sampling and randomization. Explain probability and non-probability sampling and describes the different types of each.
Quantitative Research Sampling Methods There are two main sampling methods for quantitative research: Probability and Non-probability sampling. Probability sampling: A theory of probability is used to filter individuals from a population and create samples in probability sampling.
While there are certainly instances when quantitative researchers rely on nonprobability samples (e.g., when doing exploratory or evaluation research), quantitative researchers tend to rely on probability sampling techniques. In the practical exercise (Quantitative Exam Task 1 - 5%) you developed three quantitative research designs (experimental, quasi-experimental, and non-experimental) for your research question, and considered the strengths and weaknesses, as well as practical issues, for each of these designs.