Qualitative and quantitative methods of sampling informants

19 Apr

Social activists tend to take “research as necessarily a progressive political enterprise” and judge validity in terms of political ethics; consequently, if a research finding is judged to have undesirable political considerations it may be concluded to be false (Hammersley 2002:12; cited in Chan 2011: 11).

Phenomenological research is concerned with the investigation of behavior. For this reason having access to variability or diversity within a given population may yield more productive results than simply aiming for a numerically larger sample (Bernard 1995: 72). It may be unnecessary to sample informants according to a premeditated methodology or numerical imperative. As Chan writes in her study of zanryu-hojin,

“I did not choose sampled informants methodically or numerically, but rather they were      investigated and further investigated through repeated and continuing informal         discussions and conversations with those with whom an immediate rapport was        established during the first encounters. Fortunately, this simple random sampling          allowed for a much wider range of informants, who later became the purposefully chosen             primary and designated specific samples for this research. I socialized intensively with      the targeted informants and they provided generous, unpretentious, and diverse data.” (9)

Kipnis also notes some of the value gained in numerically smaller but qualitatively richer ethnographic work in Producing Guanxi, noting that, “The strength of ethnography, of doing long-term research with a limited number of people in a single place,is that it offers the researcher the opportunity to develop a sense of locally significant questions and the strategies for answering them within the context of the field experience. Conceivably a researcher could develop significant questions from the secondary literature on a given place and design a wide-ranging survey that would result in data from a larger range of informants. However,in most research situations the secondary literature is partial at best and insufficient for survey. This was certainly true for Fengjia” (1997, p. 19)

Chan,Yeeshan (2011) Abandoned Japanese in Postwar Manchuria: the lives of war orphans and wives in two countries. London and NY: Routledge.

Bernard, H Russell (1995) Research Methods in Anthropology: qualitative and quantitative approaches, 2nd ed. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Hammersley, Martyn (2002) “Ethnography and the Disputes over Validity”, in Debates and Developments in Ethnographic Methodology, edited by Geoffrey Walford. Amsterdam: JAI.

Kipnis, Andrew B. (1997) Producing Guanxi: Sentiment, Self,and Subculture in a North China Village. Durham and London: Duke University Press.


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