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

Oliver Dimbath, Michael Ernst-Heidenreich, Matthias Roche


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.


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


Copyright (c) 2018 Oliver Dimbath, Matthias Roche, Michael Ernst-Heidenreich

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