The Limited Usefulness of Convenience Sampling

Convenience sampling is a type of sampling by which the researcher selects a study environment and/or study participants primarily based on ease of access, availability, and/or familiarity. Convenience Convenience sampling radiussampling is not uncommon in qualitative research when researchers may need to complete their research in a short time frame and at a relatively low cost. For example, an ethnographer who wants to study how people behave in a confined space might design her research to observe people on her daily commute on the local subway. Or a graduate student might select clergy within a narrow radius of his university to conduct in-depth interviews to understand the roles clergy play in the lives of their congregations. Or focus group discussions might be conducted at a geriatric facility where the researcher visits her parents in order to learn about skilled nursing care.

In each case, the researcher may come away with insightful information about people in confined spaces on that particular subway car on a particular day, or clergy roles among the particular clergy drawn from religious groups within the neighborhood, or skilled nursing care at that particular geriatric facility. However, the important limitation of these studies lies in the fact that the subway car, the religious groups, and the geriatric facility were not selected because they were somehow representative of confined spaces, religious organizations, or senior medical care facilities, but rather because these locations and participants were in easy access and familiar to the researchers. As a result, and without other research to help triangulate the data, the researcher (and users of the research) have no way of knowing how (or if) the particular subway car on the particular day and time of day, or the clergy in the neighborhood, or the geriatric facility where the researcher’s parents live relate to (i.e., is the same or different than) the broader context of confined spaces, religious organizations, or geriatric facilities.

This raises an important limitation to convenience sampling. From a quality standpoint, convenience sampling limits the ultimate usefulness of a qualitative study because the data based on a convenience sample do not allow the researcher (and users of the research) to apply the findings to other contexts, i.e., convenience sampling limits the transferability of the research. Transferability is a vital aspect of the Total Quality Framework Transparency component and is fundamental to contributing something of value. And in the end, contributing something of value – that is, maximizing the usefulness of the research – is the researcher’s ultimate goal.



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The Use of Quotes & Bringing Transparency to Qualitative Analysis

The use of quotes or verbatims from participants is a typical and necessary component to any qualitative research report. It is by revealing participants’ exact language that the researcher helps the user of the research to understand the key takeaways by clarifying through illustration the essential points of the researcher’s interpretations. The idea is not to display an extensive list of what people said but rather provide quotes that have been carefully selected for being the most descriptive or explanatory of the researcher’s conceptual interpretation of the data. As Susan Morrow has written

“An overemphasis on the researcher’s interpretations at the cost of participant quotes will leave the reader in doubt as to just where the interpretations came from [however] an excess of quotes will cause the reader to become lost in the morass of stories.” (Morrow, 2005, p. 256)

By embedding carefully chosen extracts from participants’ words in the final document, the researcher uniquely gives participants a voice in the outcomes while contributing to the credibility – and transparency – of the research. In essence, the use of verbatims gives the users of the research a peek into the analyst’s codebook by Read Full Text

Transparent Qualitative Research: The Total Quality Framework Transparency Component

The Total Quality Framework (TQF)* contributes to the conversation in the qualitative research community by providing researchers with a way to think about their qualitative designs – along with strategies or techniques – for the purpose of enhancing the quality of research outcomes. The TQF is a comprehensive approach that considers all stages of the research process – from data collection to the final “product.” Recent articles in Research Design Review discussed two of the four components of the TQF – specifically, the Credibility component and the Analyzability component. The Credibility component pertains to data collection and consists of Scope (having to do with sampling and coverage) and Data Gathering (having to do with minimizing potential bias, nonresponse, and other factors that may weaken the validity of the data). The Analyzability component of the TQF is focused on the Processing of qualitative data (e.g., the quality by which the initial “raw” data is transformed) as well as Verification of research findings and interpretations (e.g., by way of deviant cases, peer debriefs, the reflexive journal).

The third component of the TQF has to do with the next phase in a qualitative research design – that is, reporting. When the data has been collected and thoroughly processed and verified, the qualitative researcher Read Full Text