The Practice and Theory of Theoretical Sampling. Methodological Considerations on the Progression of Sampling Decisions


  • Oliver Dimbath Universität Koblenz-Landau
  • Michael Ernst-Heidenreich Universität Koblenz-Landau
  • Matthias Roche Universität Augsburg



qualitative methods, case selection, grounded theory methodology, theoretical sampling, progression cards


Theoretical sampling is an alternative to statistical sampling in social science that is compatible with genuinely qualitative research. It focuses on integrating the process of analyzing data with the process of selecting the cases or units to be examined. Using preliminary findings, theoretical sampling guides researchers toward the most relevant data for advancing their research project. In this paper, we discuss existing proposals of how theoretical sampling can and should be implemented, identify deterants to research that often emerge from shortcomings in reflecting on and presenting how data are selected, and propose a form of documenting sampling decisions that expands upon established memoing practices. A research project conducted in the University Quarter of Augsburg, Germany is used to demonstrate ways of clarifying and systematizing case selection using so-called progression cards.


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Author Biographies

Oliver Dimbath, Universität Koblenz-Landau

Dr. Oliver DIMBATH ist Professor für Allgemeine Soziologie am Institut für Soziologie der Universität Koblenz-Landau (Campus Koblenz). Seine Arbeitsgebiete sind: Allgemeine Soziologie, Wissenssoziologie, Gedächtnissoziologie, Filmsoziologie und qualitative Methodenlehre.

Michael Ernst-Heidenreich, Universität Koblenz-Landau

Michael ERNST-HEIDENREICH, M.A. ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Soziologie an der Universität Koblenz-Landau (Campus Koblenz). Arbeitsgebiete: Jugendreiseforschung, Konfliktsoziologie, Methoden qualitativ-interpretativer Sozialforschung, soziale Bewegungen, Soziologie des Alltags und situative Nichtalltäglichkeit, Vergemeinschaftung, (Nicht-)Wissenssoziologie.

Matthias Roche, Universität Augsburg



How to Cite

Dimbath, O., Ernst-Heidenreich, M., & Roche, M. (2018). The Practice and Theory of Theoretical Sampling. Methodological Considerations on the Progression of Sampling Decisions. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 19(3).