Qualitative research is gaining increased momentum in the clinical setting and carries different criteria for evaluating its rigour or quality. Quantitative studies generally involve the systematic collection of data about a phenomenon, using standardized measures and statistical analysis. In contrast, qualitative studies involve the systematic collection, organization, description and interpretation of textual, verbal or visual data. Applicability, or transferability of the research findings, is the criterion for evaluating external validity. A study is considered to meet the criterion of applicability when its findings can fit into contexts outside the study situation and when clinicians and researchers view the findings as meaningful and applicable in their own experiences.

Larger sample sizes do not produce greater applicability. Depth may be sacrificed to breadth or there may be too much data for adequate analysis. Sample sizes in qualitative research are typically small. The term ‘saturation’ is often used in reference to decisions about sample size in research using qualitative methods. Emerging from grounded theory, where filling theoretical categories is considered essential to the robustness of the developing theory, data saturation has been expanded to describe a situation where data tend towards repetition or where data cease to offer new directions and raise new question

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