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Home arrow Environment arrow Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches
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AND FINALLY . . .

Particularly in ethnographic research, you learn in the field, as you go, to select the units of analysis (people, court records, whatever) that will provide the information you need. This is what Russell Belk et al. (1988) did in their detailed ethnographic study of buyers and sellers at a swap meet. When you study a process, like bargaining over goods, and you’re doing the research in the field, in real time (not under simulated conditions in a lab), then selecting informants who meet certain criteria is the right thing to do.

The credibility of research results comes from the power of the methods used in measurement and sampling. Good measurement is the key to internal validity and representative sampling is the key to external validity. Well-done nonprobability sampling is actually part of good measurement. It contributes to credibility by contributing to internal validity. When someone reads a research report based on really good measurement of a nonprobability sample, they come away thinking, ‘‘Yep, I believe those conclusions about the people who were studied in that piece of research.’’

That’s plenty. If you want the credibility of your conclusions to extend beyond the group of people (or countries, or organizations, or comic books) you studied, then either: (1) Repeat the study one or more times with nonprobability samples; or (2) Use a probability sample. Remember: Every sample represents something. An unbiased sample represents a population with a known probability of error. A nonprobability sample lacks this one feature. For a very, very large number of research questions, this is simply not a problem.

FURTHER READING

Quota sampling: Alaimo et al. (2008); Berinsky (2006); Mejean et al. (2009); Morrow et al. (2007); Weinberger (1973).

Purposive sampling: Auerswald et al. (2004); Topp et al. (2004).

Convenience sampling: Hultsch (2002); Pruchno et al. (2008); Sousa et al. (2004).

Chain referral, snowball and respondent driven sampling: Draus et al. (2005); Heckathorn (2002); Heckathorn and Jeffri (2001); Heckathorn and Wejnert (2008); Kendall et al. (2008); Maleki- nejad et al. (2008); J. L. Martin and Dean (1993); Penrod et al. (2003); Sudman and Kalton (1986).

 
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