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The Problem With Snowballing in a Small Island Context

Case
By: Published: 2021 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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Abstract

Ethical concerns posed by the chain referral or snowball sampling process seem overshadowed by the effectiveness of this non-probability technique. The snowball sampling technique has helped criminologists make inroads into understanding the dark figure of crime and other areas of crime control which may otherwise go unexplored. By drawing on my experience of obtaining ethical approval to research data-driven crime prevention in a Canadian small island context, this case study examines the appropriate use of snowball sampling technique and recommends ways in which researchers can ensure that potential recruits are not exposed to unnecessary harm, including confidentiality breaches. It particularly assesses the recommendation of the Research Ethics Board which emphasized the responsibility of researchers to protect the privacy of persons referred despite the need to reach hard to reach populations.

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