Disabled people have frequently been excluded from research through an inflexible approach to sampling (Rios et al, 2016). This is the case even when, by making adaptations to the way the research is conducted, many disabled people could have taken part. Researchers argue that the reasons for exclusion relate to ‘overestimation of vulnerability, underestimation of ability, lack of experience and discomfort with disability, devaluing and disrespecting attitudes, research requiring sample homogeneity, and lack of foresight and accommodation’ (Feldman et al, 2013, p 1000). Some of these issues could be remedied by taking disability and accessibility into account when devising the sample. In this chapter we look at both qualitative and quantitative approaches to sampling, discussing each in turn.
In social science research, the aim is to discover, describe and theorise about what is happening in the field. When a researcher chooses a research sample, they seek to identify the group of people whose experience and views will produce answers to the research question, and, consequently, research findings that are authentic.
Sampling is approached very differently in qualitative and quantitative research, which reflects their different definitions of what constitutes knowledge. In qualitative research, the epistemological approach to knowledge is relativist (Braun and Clarke, 2013). This is the idea that, rather than being solely objective, knowledge is created and interpreted within a social and cultural context. So, while empirical research may still be based on observation and data, researchers using a relativist approach anticipate that participants will offer diverse perspectives that reflect their varying interpretations and understandings of the world.