7.1.1 Sample Size

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You may be doing an inventory of the differing views of teachers in a rural

primary school, interviewing them about the different ways they have of

maintaining classroom control. Since there are only four teachers in the school,

you plan to describe each of the four grids in order, using the techniques

described in Chapters 5 and 6. So long as you’re systematic about it, signposting

what you’re doing, providing bulleted summaries, and perhaps using

a standard framework within which you can indicate similarities and

differences between the various grids, you’ll be able to report all the

relevant information in a way which is sensible and easily digested by your

readers.

This approach is very straightforward. In each case, you work through the

same set of analysis techniques chosen from Chapters 5 and 6. What you do

with one grid, you do with the others. Then, if it makes sense, you compare the

main points of information from each grid with each other grid. You’ll find

yourself comparing and contrasting, and perhaps drawing inferences from the

interviewee’s individual background and experience, to cast light on the ways

in which they construe similarly, and differently, to the other people in the

sample. Fine!

Suppose, however, that your audit covered all 50 teachers employed in a

comprehensive school. What then? Making sense of more than three or four

grids at a time is rather more complicated. The amount of information you’re

dealing with grows exponentially with each new interviewee (because at some

point you’re probably making comparisons among all the interviewees), and

your reader ends up being unable to see the wood for the trees well before the

total of 50 people has been reached!

It looks as though you’ll need to sacrifice some detail in each of the grids, while

recognising trends that are common to all of them. A content analysis will do

just that, summarising the different meanings in the interviewees’ grids by

categorising them, counting the similarities and differences within each

category.

Section 7.2 provides you with a generic approach to content analysis, which

drops some of the information in all of the grids in the interests of clarity,

while concentrating on the essentials which you wish to communicate as

representative of the sample of interviewees as a whole.

Section 7.3 provides a variant of content analysis suited to samples of around

15 people and over, which makes use of a substantial proportion of the

information present in the whole sample of grids while remaining true to its

individual provenance. A running example is used to illustrate the procedure.

In both situations, your unit of analysis is not the individual grid, but the

individual construct.