While quantitative research basically aims to get statistics—about numbers and frequencies, for example—qualitative research looks at reasons for human behavior, analyzing specific cases in more detail than a quantitative study. To select participants for a qualitative study, researchers use purposive or purposeful sampling, choosing people who fit the characteristics they wish to study.

Step 1

Make a list of the characteristics your participants should have. These might include age, gender, income, religion, geographical region and marital status. For market research, your characteristics might include buying a particular product or shopping in a particular store. In medical research, a qualitative sample might include people suffering from a particular condition.

Step 2

Identify and sample every person who meets the sample criteria. This works for studies with sample characteristics that target a very narrow group. If researching customer service in a small business that has only 50 clients, for example, those 50 clients represent your sample.

Step 3

Identify a location where you can personally select your sample. In some cases, this is the obvious method. For example, if you want to know about customer loyalty to a particular store, find your sample at the store itself. It may be a virtual location—try posting a request on an Internet forum to find people who share a particular specialist interest.

Step 4

Ask participants to suggest other participants who qualify. For instance, ask participants in an online survey to forward the link to other friends who have the relevant characteristics, such as a particular interest. This is known as network sampling.

Step 5

Contact people who can suggest participants who fit your profile. In educational research, ask a school principal to nominate students who fulfill your criteria. In health care research, ask a doctor to nominate patients who match your sample characteristics.

Step 6

Refine your sample by eliminating from the research or results any participants whom you suspect do not meet the requirements or have been dishonest about matching the characteristics.