Sample Size and Saturation in PhD Studies Using Qualitative Interviews

Mark Mason


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 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.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs100387


saturation; sample size; interviews size, personal interviews.

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Copyright (c) 2010 Mark Mason

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