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Choosing research participants

Saunders, MNK (2012) Choosing research participants In: The Practice of Qualitative Organizational Research: Core Methods and Current Challenges. Sage, London, pp. 37-55. ISBN 0857024116

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Within qualitative research choice of research participants is, invariably, constrained by what is practicable. Whilst in an ideal world we may wish to collect data from participants in a particular organization or a number of organizations, our abilities to do this are dependent upon gaining access to these organizations and our intended participants, as well as being granted permission to collect the data we require. Once physical access has been granted and permission obtained (Gummesson, 2000), whilst occasionally it may be possible to collect data from the total population, for example all an organization’s employees; for most research projects this will be impossible. As a condition of our access, our potential population of research participants may be constrained to a smaller sub group. The resources we have available to support our research may also constrain the amount of data we can collect and analyse, almost invariably resulting in it only being practicable to collect data from a sample of our population of research participants (Fink, 2003; Saunders et al., 2009a). Consequently for virtually all qualitative research it will be necessary to consider carefully how we will choose those research participants, our sample, from whom we will collect data to answer our research question and meet our research aim. This chapter takes as its starting premise that there is a clear connection between our research aim and our research design (Kvale and Brinkmann, 2009). Our choice of research participants should be determined by the focus of our research, thereby enabling us to meet of our research aim and answer our research question. Choosing research participants is likely to be difficult until we are clear regarding the focus of our research. The chapter commences with a discussion of the main concerns and debates associated with choosing participants for qualitative organisational research. Within this I consider the importance of gaining access, the need for the sample to enable collection of appropriate data, the use of different non-probability sample selection techniques and the number of participants needed. These are illustrated subsequently by two examples drawn from my own and colleagues’ research experiences. The first focuses on selection of a single case study, issues of access and purposive sampling techniques. The second explores the use of a self-selection sample to choose participants drawn from a variety of organizations, and issues associated with sample size. The chapter closes with guidelines for new qualitative researchers when choosing participants and suggestions for further reading.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Mechanical Engineering Sciences
Authors :
Saunders, MNK
Editors :
Symons, G
Cassell, C
Date : 2012
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 15:01
Last Modified : 16 Apr 2018 12:20

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