In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Research Sampling Strategies

  • Introduction

Education Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Research Sampling Strategies
Timothy C. Guetterman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0241


Sampling is a critical, often overlooked aspect of the research process. The importance of sampling extends to the ability to draw accurate inferences, and it is an integral part of qualitative guidelines across research methods. Sampling considerations are important in quantitative and qualitative research when considering a target population and when drawing a sample that will either allow us to generalize (i.e., quantitatively) or go into sufficient depth (i.e., qualitatively). While quantitative research is generally concerned with probability-based approaches, qualitative research typically uses nonprobability purposeful sampling approaches. Scholars generally focus on two major sampling topics: sampling strategies and sample sizes. Or simply, researchers should think about who to include and how many; both of these concerns are key. Mixed methods studies have both qualitative and quantitative sampling considerations. However, mixed methods studies also have unique considerations based on the relationship of quantitative and qualitative research within the study.

Sampling in Qualitative Research

Sampling in qualitative research may be divided into two major areas: overall sampling strategies and issues around sample size. Sampling strategies refers to the process of sampling and how to design a sampling. Qualitative sampling typically follows a nonprobability-based approach, such as purposive or purposeful sampling where participants or other units of analysis are selected intentionally for their ability to provide information to address research questions. Sample size refers to how many participants or other units are needed to address research questions. The methodological literature about sampling tends to fall into these two broad categories, though some articles, chapters, and books cover both concepts. Others have connected sampling to the type of qualitative design that is employed. Additionally, researchers might consider discipline specific sampling issues as much research does tend to operate within disciplinary views and constraints. Scholars in many disciplines have examined sampling around specific topics, research problems, or disciplines and provide guidance to making sampling decisions, such as appropriate strategies and sample size.

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