In qualitative research, there are various sampling techniques that you can use when recruiting participants. The two most popular sampling techniques are purposeful and convenience sampling because they align the best across nearly all qualitative research designs. Sampling techniques can be used in conjunction with one another very easily or can be used alone within a qualitative dissertation. Here we will describe the two most popular techniques in a bit more detail.
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Purposeful Sampling: Also known as purposive and selective sampling, purposeful sampling is a sampling technique that qualitative researchers use to recruit participants who can provide in-depth and detailed information about the phenomenon under investigation. It is highly subjective and determined by the qualitative researcher generating the qualifying criteria each participant must meet to be considered for the research study. An example of this would be a student who seeks to look at current nurses’ perceptions of leadership styles within a specific hospital setting. This one sentence description alone can already generate two selection criteria: (a) must be an active nurse and (b) must work at a specific hospital setting. Additional criteria such as number of years in the field or level of nursing education will ensure participants have a similar foundation.
Convenience Sampling: This is a sampling technique that qualitative researchers use to recruit participants who are easily accessible and convenient to the researchers. Oftentimes this may include utilizing geographic location and resources that make participant recruitment convenient. An example of this would be a teacher who wanted to examine the perceptions of teachers about a policy change and decided to utilize a school within the district he or she worked in to recruit participants. Another example would be a professional who is a member of a professional organization and wanted to recruit participants through contact information available to members of that organization. Both examples would be convenient to each researcher but would also require obtaining permissions to recruit participants (from the district and professional organization respectively).
There are additional sampling techniques, such as snowball and quota sampling, that qualitative researchers can use, but the majority of qualitative researchers utilize one of the sampling techniques described above.