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Dictionary

THEORETICAL SAMPLING

Martyn Hammersley

Theoretical sampling is a central part of the grounded theorizing advocated by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Grounded theorizing is usually regarded as a form of qualitative inquiry, though in fact its originators saw it as applicable to quantitative data too. In this context, theoretical sampling is tied to the purpose of generating and developing theoretical ideas, rather than being aimed either at producing findings that are representative of a population or at testing hypotheses. This form of sampling does not take place at a single point in the inquiry process but is a recurrent feature: at various times the researcher must ask what settings, events, people etc. it would be worthwhile investigating next in order to develop aspects of the emerging theory. In this way, theoretical sampling is guided by, and helps to generate, the ‘theoretical sensitivity’ that is necessary in grounded theorizing, and indeed in qualitative and ethnographic work ...

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