Negative chain referral sampling: doing justice to subcultural diversity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper calls for renewed consideration of the way research
subjects are selected in the study of subcultures. All too often,
subcultural researchers limit themselves to the use of one or two
of the orthodox sampling designs, such as ‘convenience
sampling’ (selecting subjects who are readily available) or ‘chain
referral sampling’ (selecting a readily available subject who refers
the researcher to other subjects). While these designs certainly
have their merits, especially in the early research phase of
negotiating access and acceptance, they may impede insight into
the diversity that exists within subcultural groups. Based on
ethnographic fieldwork among punks and graffiti writers, this
paper introduces a supplementary design, that of ‘negative chain
referral sampling’, which consists of using group members’
categorisations of subcultural anomalies as an opening to explore
subcultural variation and tensions. This design is one that flips
the logic of conventional chain referral sampling: if we are
encouraged not to speak to certain subjects, for instance, due to
their lack of authenticity or status, this forms the motivation for
doing exactly that. Closer examination of subcultural anomalies
may deepen our understanding of the boundary work, identitymaking
and social exclusion that occurs in all subcultural groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1268-1283
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number9
Early online date2021 Jul 1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 9

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Free keywords

  • subcultures
  • ethnography
  • identity


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