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Statistics LibreTexts

12.1: How Do We Sample?

  • Page ID
    8783
  • Our goal in sampling is to determine the value of a statistic for an entire population of interest, using just a small subset of the population. We do this primarily to save time and effort – why go to the trouble of measuring every individual in the population when just a small sample is sufficient to accurately estimate the variable of interest?

    In the election example, the population is all registered voters, and the sample is the set of 1000 individuals selected by the polling organization. The way in which we select the sample is critical to ensuring that the sample is representative of the entire population, which is a main goal of statistical sampling. It’s easy to imagine a non-representative sample; if a pollster only called individuals whose names they had received from the local Democratic party, then it would be unlikely that the results of the poll would be representative of the population as a whole. In general, we would define a representative poll as being one in which every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. When this fails, then we have to worry about whether the statistic that we compute on the sample is biased - that is, whether its value is systematically different from the population value (which we refer to as a parameter). Keep in mind that we generally don’t know this population parameter, because if we did then we wouldn’t need to sample! But we will use examples where we have access to the entire population, in order to explain some of the key ideas.

    It’s important to also distinguish between two different ways of sampling: with replacement versus without replacement. In sampling with replacement, after a member of the population has been sampled, they are put back into the pool so that they can potentially be sampled again. In sampling without replacement, once a member has been sampled they are not eligible to be sampled again. It’s most common to use sampling without replacement, but there will be some contexts in which we will use sampling with replacement, as when we discuss a technique called bootstrapping in Chapter 14.