Snowball Sampling

Snowball sampling is an approach for locating information-rich key informants.1


Using this approach, a few potential respondents are contacted and asked if they can recommend someone with the characteristics that you're seeking for your initiative. For instance, when an emphasis is being place on creating change within an entire community it would be important to speak to or interview those who are system thinkers able to view the big picture.


Once you have identified the skills, knowledge and/or characteristics you require, you then approach people and invite them to participate in a community consultation process.


Note: The selection of initial contacts is critical to the success of this strategy.


Designed to identify people with particular knowledge, skills, or characteristics needed as part of committee and/or consultative process, snowball sampling fosters identification of resources in a community and selection of those best-suited to the needs of the initiative or process.


It will help determine stakeholders; increase the number of participants in the process; build existing networks, and open the door to previously unknown stakeholders and interested participants.



  1. Draft a participation program (likely subject to change); consider needs of next step when establishing profiles and target numbers

  2. Approach stakeholders and ask for contacts; gather contact information and solicit participation

  3. Community issues groups may emerge that can be included in the participation program (extend profiles)

  4. Continue snowballing with contacts to gain more stakeholders, until established targets are met

  5. Ensure diversity of contacts by broadening profiles and extending networks through snowballing process


1 Patton, M. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Sage Publications: Newbury Park, California.


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