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What ‘works’ when retracing sample members in a qualitative longitudinal study?

Farrall, Stephen; Hunter, Ben; Sharpe, Gilly; Calverley, Adam


Stephen Farrall

Ben Hunter

Gilly Sharpe

Adam Calverley


Attrition represents a significant obstacle to overcome in any longitudinal research project. It is, perhaps, most keenly felt when the data collected are from a qualitative study, since, unlike quantitative longitudinal research, weighting factors cannot be applied to ‘correct’ for any biases in the achieved sample and even a small number of ‘lost’ respondents can equate to a large percentage of the original sample. It is perhaps because of qualitative longitudinal research’s (QLR) reliance on, generally speaking, smaller samples that few have been able to shed much light on which re-contacting procedures are associated with achieving higher rates of retention. In this article, using data from a fifth sweep of a larger but particularly challenging cohort of 199 former probationers, we explore the strategies which helped us maintain high levels of retention in a QLR study. The article contains many practical suggestions which others planning or undertaking similar studies may find useful.


Farrall, S., Hunter, B., Sharpe, G., & Calverley, A. (2016). What ‘works’ when retracing sample members in a qualitative longitudinal study?. International journal of social research methodology : theory & practice, 19(3), 287-300.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 25, 2014
Online Publication Date Mar 4, 2015
Publication Date May 3, 2016
Deposit Date Oct 21, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal International journal of social research methodology
Print ISSN 1364-5579
Electronic ISSN 1464-5300
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 3
Pages 287-300
Keywords Qualitative longitudinal research; Retention; Follow-up studies
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a gold open access article published in: International journal of social research methodology, 2015.


11715 Calverley.pdf (387 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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