tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

Theoretical saturation


There is a golden rule in research that you can stop a case study when you have theoretical saturation, that is, when you sense that what you hear, observe and see are same-same-but-not-too-different. As all golden rules this one is doubtful. Can there be an end to a case study for this reason?

So far, we have managed to equip ourselves with new questions and issues – and the very reason for this is all the insightful and reflecting storytellers that we meet in Kiruna and elsewhere. We ”only” have to engage in dialogues, to listen, to ask, to discuss. Nothing more, nothing less. If theoretical saturation occurs, it is rather a sign of that the researcher(s) have locked themselves in to a certain framework, and certain questions, and therefore are unable to sense anything ”new”.

Yes, a research project has an end – it has a financial start and stop, and it has a pre-planned time period. Researchers can also show signs of fatigue because of the tremendous mental weight interesting empirical material carries with it, and as a consequence the field is fled from. These are practical reasons. Theoretical saturation, so commonly referred to, we don’t believe in it!

 


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