Snowball recruiting': Capitalising on the theoretical 'six degrees of separation'

Year: 2005

Author: Grupetta, Maree

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The use of 'snowball recruiting' has been criticised due to the tendency for in-group recruitment and over-sampling of groups with larger personal networks. Yet this type of recruitment is valuable within studies where the participants required represent a narrow subgroup of the general population for which adequate sampling frames are not available. Despite the mistaken belief that the researcher only needs one or two contacts for the information to snowball until the required sample size is achieved, in reality this methodology requires much research in order to be effective (Streeton, et al, 2004). However, if Milgram's (1967) largely unproven theory of 'six degrees of separation' between strangers is to be believed, information can be transmitted effectively to a large number of people through an informal network of communication, thereby increasing recruitment options. Current studies by Columbia and Ohio Universities are testing Milgram's (1967) theory in relation to Internet communication, and hypothesize that there are actually less than six degrees of separation between strangers connected through technology. This paper documents the recruitment process for a doctoral dissertation using 'snowball' methodology, discussing the positive and negative aspects of this type of recruitment in relation to its efficiency in providing a fair population sample for research.