Grounded theory and theoretical sampling

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I selected the five participants of this study as well as the after school site of observation following the theoretical sampling approach (Glasser and Straus, 1967) in where subjects, events, and settings, are chosen "on the basis of their potential manifestation or representation of important theoretical constructs"(Patton, 2001, p. 238). In particular, I selected them because they have the characteristics for testing the theories of segmented assimilation, digital inequalities, and new media practices. Among the bigger group of 18 high school students that participated in the Digital Edge project, the five students I chose for my dissertation are second and first and a half generation immigrants with Mexican origin, all of them were enrolled in the FHS technology elective classes, and most of them, except one, were involved in the digital media after school program (with different degrees of commitment and participation). Hence, all of these Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth were positioned as active users of technology both at school, at home, and in their peer group. Despite the fact that some of them were coming from low income and working class families they have access to technology both at home and at school, and three of them had also access to mobile smartphones in their everyday life.

Theoretical sampling or theory-based sampling is useful for my study because they allow me to test and continue developing the theories of segmented assimilation, digital inequalities, and new media practice, in relation to a particular segment of the US young population: the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth. Therefore, the five participants of this study are not representative of all the Latino/Hispanic immigrant youth population. In a similar way, the findings of this study are not generalizable to the whole Latino/Hispanic population. Instead, this small sample of participants have been chosen in order to develop specific analytical concepts and to gain a deeper understandings to thick and textured case studies.

Because part of the goal of my dissertation is to continue developing specific theoretical constructs and concepts that are grounded in the real life experiences of a particular segment of the population, this kind of sampling becomes useful for grounded theorizing. (Glasser and Straus, 1967) The selection of participants and site was guided by a particular theoretical orientation that could be seen on the ground. Theoretical selective coding was also applied in order to generate strong concepts from the data that explained the phenomenon.


Coyne, IT. (1997). "Sampling in qualitative research: Purposeful and theoretical sampling; merging or clear boundaries." Journal of Advanced Nursing 26, 623-630.

Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine.

Patton, MQ. (2001). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (2nd Edition). Thousand oaks, CA: Sage Publications.