Saunders, B and Sim, J and Kingstone, T and Baker, S and Waterfield, J and Bartlam, B and Burroughs, H and Jinks, C (2017) Saturation in qualitative research: exploring its conceptualization and operationalization. Quality and Quantity. pp. 1-15. ISSN 0033-5177

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Abstract

Saturation has attained widespread acceptance as a methodological principle in qualitative research. It is commonly taken to indicate that, on the basis of the data that have been collected or analysed hitherto, further data collection and/or analysis are unnecessary. However, there appears to be uncertainty as to how saturation should be conceptualized, and inconsistencies in its use. In this paper, we look to clarify the nature, purposes and uses of saturation, and in doing so add to theoretical debate on the role of saturation across different methodologies. We identify four distinct approaches to saturation, which differ in terms of the extent to which an inductive or a deductive logic is adopted, and the relative emphasis on data collection, data analysis, and theorizing. We explore the purposes saturation might serve in relation to these different approaches, and the implications for how and when saturation will be sought. In examining these issues, we highlight the uncertain logic underlying saturation — as essentially a predictive statement about the unobserved based on the observed, a judgement that, we argue, results in equivocation, and may in part explain the confusion surrounding its use. We conclude that saturation should be operationalized in a way that is consistent with the research question(s), and the theoretical position and analytic framework adopted, but also that there should be some limit to its scope, so as not to risk saturation losing its coherence and potency if its conceptualization and uses are stretched too widely

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Uncontrolled Keywords: saturation; data collection; data analysis; grounded theory; qualitative research
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Primary Care Health Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2017 08:39
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2017 08:39
URI: http://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/4122

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