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Is it really theoretical? A review of sampling in grounded theory studies in nursing journals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2284-2293
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number10
Early online date26 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


King's Authors



Grounded theory is a distinct method of qualitative research, where core features are theoretical sampling and constant comparative analysis. However, inconsistent application of these activities has been observed in published studies.


This review assessed the use of theoretical sampling in grounded theory studies in nursing journals.


An adapted systematic review was conducted.


Three leading nursing journals (2010–2014) were searched for studies stating grounded theory as the method. Sampling was assessed using a concise rating tool.


A high proportion (86%) of the 134 articles described an iterative process of data collection and analysis. However, half of the studies did not demonstrate theoretical sampling, with many studies declaring or indicating a purposive sampling approach throughout.


Specific reporting guidelines for grounded theory studies should be developed to ensure that study reports describe an iterative process of fieldwork and theoretical development.

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