Sunday, 20 May 2012

Gotta Number Fetish?

Whether it's ethics committees, research supervisors, grant funders or journals you'll always find someone with a number fetish...forget saturation, they'll be more impressed with your study if it simply has more participants?

Have you had this experience? Feel the pressure to put 40 people into your narrative inquiry study? (by the way that would take about three years to analyse)

Numbers are not the key to quality qualitative research simply because generalisability is not the aim...qual research sacrifices generalisability for depth of meaning, you learn important things from local phenomenon rather than going for representativeness...

The key to determining how many participants to have is based on saturation in many instances...

Volume 11, No. 3, Art. 8 – September 2010 Forum:Social Qualitative Research
Sample Size and Saturation in PhD Studies Using Qualitative Interviews
Mark Mason
Abstract: A number of issues can affect sample size in qualitative research; however, the guiding principle should be the concept of saturation. This has been explored in detail by a number of authors but is still hotly debated, and some say little understood. A sample of PhD studies using qualitative approaches, and qualitative interviews as the method of data collection was taken from theses.com and contents analysed for their sample sizes. Five hundred and sixty studies were identified that fitted the inclusion criteria. Results showed that the mean sample size was 31; however, the distribution was non-random, with a statistically significant proportion of studies, presenting sample sizes that were multiples of ten. These results are discussed in relation to saturation. They suggest a pre-meditated approach that is not wholly congruent with the principles of qualitative research.
Key wordssaturation; sample size; interviews
..........but saturation isnt always the key....you may do a study that aims to sample a rare group of people, for example...this sampling is called Deviant Case or Extreme Sampling...you may also be working with a finite group of people as in Participatory Action Research...you may have only one case, as in autoethnography...

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