Snowballing in Australia

Sometimes, finding the right interviwee is quite tough; once you found them, doing the interview seems to be the much easier part of your research. On my trip along The “Mighty Murray”, I worked with a technique I would like to call explorative or critical snowballing. The main idea is described as method in statistics to get a sample for your study.

But what’s critical snowballing? 

Traveling along the river that is meant to be the “lifeblood” of Australia – mostly related to humans and food production – my interviewees just appeared by talking to someone; then this person knew someone else, whom I could talk to, and so on. 

More in detail:

  • By walking into tourist information offices, I got in touch with the economic side of the story (water management people). 
  • The critical voices could be heard by talking to people at the camp ground or in the newspaper’s editorial offices where I actually “just” walked in and found great people!
  • Then they referred to politicians and consultants…and so on.

And hey, my research took place in Australia, which means I got at least three new contacts from each person I was talking to – this is the reason why I’m calling it snowballing – even in Australia.
The “innovative” part of the method?

I did narrative interviews – highly “qualitative”. Basically, this doesn’t fit to “sampling” and “snowball system” as method to put a sample together to answer a quantitative research question.

Therefor, I call it explorative and more specific: critical snowballing:

1. Find at least 5 people to talk to.

2. Listen to their story.

3. Note the people they are talking about and listen again, what’s the story about the relationship between them!

4. Get in touch with them, and ask them about the first person vice versa, this, get the full story behind!

5. Remember, even the person who “only gets you in touch with Xxx”, can tell a story! No one is only a mediator.

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