# 1.10: Methods of Sampling

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Sampling

Gathering information about an entire population often costs too much or is virtually impossible. Instead, we use a sample of the population. A sample should have the same characteristics as the population it is representing. Most statisticians use various methods of random sampling in an attempt to achieve this goal. This section will describe a few of the most common methods. There are several different methods of random sampling. In each form of random sampling, each member of a population initially has an equal chance of being selected for the sample. Each method has pros and cons. The easiest method to describe is called a simple random sample. Any group of n individuals is equally likely to be chosen by any other group of n individuals if the simple random sampling technique is used. In other words, each sample of the same size has an equal chance of being selected. For example, suppose Lisa wants to form a four-person study group (herself and three other people) from her pre-calculus class, which has 31 members not including Lisa. To choose a simple random sample of size three from the other members of her class, Lisa could put all 31 names in a hat, shake the hat, close her eyes, and pick out three names. A more technological way is for Lisa to first list the last names of the members of her class together with a two-digit number, as in Table $$\PageIndex{2}$$:

Table $$\PageIndex{3}$$: Class Roster
ID Name ID Name ID Name
00 Anselmo 11 King 21 Roquero
01 Bautista 12 Legeny 22 Roth
02 Bayani 13 Lundquist 23 Rowell
03 Cheng 14 Macierz 24 Salangsang
04 Cuarismo 15 Motogawa 25 Slade
05 Cuningham 16 Okimoto 26 Stratcher
06 Fontecha 17 Patel 27 Tallai
07 Hong 18 Price 28 Tran
08 Hoobler 19 Quizon 29 Wai
09 Jiao 20 Reyes 30 Wood
10 Khan

Lisa can use a table of random numbers (found in many statistics books and mathematical handbooks), a calculator, or a computer to generate random numbers. For this example, suppose Lisa chooses to generate random numbers from a calculator. The numbers generated are as follows:

0.94360; 0.99832; 0.14669; 0.51470; 0.40581; 0.73381; 0.04399

Lisa reads two-digit groups until she has chosen three class members (that is, she reads 0.94360 as the groups 94, 43, 36, 60). Each random number may only contribute one class member. If she needed to, Lisa could have generated more random numbers.

The random numbers 0.94360 and 0.99832 do not contain appropriate two digit numbers. However the third random number, 0.14669, contains 14 (the fourth random number also contains 14), the fifth random number contains 05, and the seventh random number contains 04. The two-digit number 14 corresponds to Macierz, 05 corresponds to Cuningham, and 04 corresponds to Cuarismo. Besides herself, Lisa’s group will consist of Marcierz, Cuningham, and Cuarismo.

To generate random numbers:

• Press MATH.
• Arrow over to PRB.
• Press 5:randInt(. Enter 0, 30).
• Press ENTER for the first random number.
• Press ENTER two more times for the other 2 random numbers. If there is a repeat press ENTER again.

Note: randInt(0, 30, 3) will generate 3 random numbers.

Besides simple random sampling, there are other forms of sampling that involve a chance process for getting the sample. Other well-known random sampling methods are the stratified sample, the cluster sample, and the systematic sample.

To choose a stratified sample, divide the population into groups called strata and then take a proportionate number from each stratum. For example, you could stratify (group) your college population by department and then choose a proportionate simple random sample from each stratum (each department) to get a stratified random sample. To choose a simple random sample from each department, number each member of the first department, number each member of the second department, and do the same for the remaining departments. Then use simple random sampling to choose proportionate numbers from the first department and do the same for each of the remaining departments. Those numbers picked from the first department, picked from the second department, and so on represent the members who make up the stratified sample.

To choose a cluster sample, divide the population into clusters (groups) and then randomly select some of the clusters. All the members from these clusters are in the cluster sample. For example, if you randomly sample four departments from your college population, the four departments make up the cluster sample. Divide your college faculty by department. The departments are the clusters. Number each department, and then choose four different numbers using simple random sampling. All members of the four departments with those numbers are the cluster sample.

To choose a systematic sample, randomly select a starting point and take every nth piece of data from a listing of the population. For example, suppose you have to do a phone survey. Your phone book contains 20,000 residence listings. You must choose 400 names for the sample. Number the population 1–20,000 and then use a simple random sample to pick a number that represents the first name in the sample. Then choose every fiftieth name thereafter until you have a total of 400 names (you might have to go back to the beginning of your phone list). Systematic sampling is frequently chosen because it is a simple method.

A type of sampling that is non-random is convenience sampling. Convenience sampling involves using results that are readily available. For example, a computer software store conducts a marketing study by interviewing potential customers who happen to be in the store browsing through the available software. The results of convenience sampling may be very good in some cases and highly biased (favor certain outcomes) in others.

Sampling data should be done very carefully. Collecting data carelessly can have devastating results. Surveys mailed to households and then returned may be very biased (they may favor a certain group). It is better for the person conducting the survey to select the sample respondents.

True random sampling is done with replacement. That is, once a member is picked, that member goes back into the population and thus may be chosen more than once. However for practical reasons, in most populations, simple random sampling is done without replacement. Surveys are typically done without replacement. That is, a member of the population may be chosen only once. Most samples are taken from large populations and the sample tends to be small in comparison to the population. Since this is the case, sampling without replacement is approximately the same as sampling with replacement because the chance of picking the same individual more than once with replacement is very low.

In a college population of 10,000 people, suppose you want to pick a sample of 1,000 randomly for a survey. For any particular sample of 1,000, if you are sampling with replacement,

• the chance of picking the first person is 1,000 out of 10,000 (0.1000);
• the chance of picking a different second person for this sample is 999 out of 10,000 (0.0999);
• the chance of picking the same person again is 1 out of 10,000 (very low).

If you are sampling without replacement,

• the chance of picking the first person for any particular sample is 1000 out of 10,000 (0.1000);
• the chance of picking a different second person is 999 out of 9,999 (0.0999);
• you do not replace the first person before picking the next person.

Compare the fractions 999/10,000 and 999/9,999. For accuracy, carry the decimal answers to four decimal places. To four decimal places, these numbers are equivalent (0.0999).

Sampling without replacement instead of sampling with replacement becomes a mathematical issue only when the population is small. For example, if the population is 25 people, the sample is ten, and you are sampling with replacement for any particular sample, then the chance of picking the first person is ten out of 25, and the chance of picking a different second person is nine out of 25 (you replace the first person).

If you sample without replacement, then the chance of picking the first person is ten out of 25, and then the chance of picking the second person (who is different) is nine out of 24 (you do not replace the first person).

Compare the fractions 9/25 and 9/24. To four decimal places, 9/25 = 0.3600 and 9/24 = 0.3750. To four decimal places, these numbers are not equivalent.

When you analyze data, it is important to be aware of sampling errors and nonsampling errors. The actual process of sampling causes sampling errors. For example, the sample may not be large enough. Factors not related to the sampling process cause nonsampling errors. A defective counting device can cause a nonsampling error.

In reality, a sample will never be exactly representative of the population so there will always be some sampling error. As a rule, the larger the sample, the smaller the sampling error.

In statistics, a sampling bias is created when a sample is collected from a population and some members of the population are not as likely to be chosen as others (remember, each member of the population should have an equally likely chance of being chosen). When a sampling bias happens, there can be incorrect conclusions drawn about the population that is being studied.

Exercise $$\PageIndex{8}$$

A study is done to determine the average tuition that San Jose State undergraduate students pay per semester. Each student in the following samples is asked how much tuition he or she paid for the Fall semester. What is the type of sampling in each case?

1. A sample of 100 undergraduate San Jose State students is taken by organizing the students’ names by classification (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior), and then selecting 25 students from each.
2. A random number generator is used to select a student from the alphabetical listing of all undergraduate students in the Fall semester. Starting with that student, every 50th student is chosen until 75 students are included in the sample.
3. A completely random method is used to select 75 students. Each undergraduate student in the fall semester has the same probability of being chosen at any stage of the sampling process.
4. The freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years are numbered one, two, three, and four, respectively. A random number generator is used to pick two of those years. All students in those two years are in the sample.
5. An administrative assistant is asked to stand in front of the library one Wednesday and to ask the first 100 undergraduate students he encounters what they paid for tuition the Fall semester. Those 100 students are the sample.

a. stratified; b. systematic; c. simple random; d. cluster; e. convenience

Example $$\PageIndex{9}$$: Calculator

You are going to use the random number generator to generate different types of samples from the data. This table displays six sets of quiz scores (each quiz counts 10 points) for an elementary statistics class.

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6
5 7 10 9 8 3
10 5 9 8 7 6
9 10 8 6 7 9
9 10 10 9 8 9
7 8 9 5 7 4
9 9 9 10 8 7
7 7 10 9 8 8
8 8 9 10 8 8
9 7 8 7 7 8
8 8 10 9 8 7

Instructions: Use the Random Number Generator to pick samples.

1. Create a stratified sample by column. Pick three quiz scores randomly from each column.
• Number each row one through ten.
• On your calculator, press Math and arrow over to PRB.
• For column 1, Press 5:randInt( and enter 1,10). Press ENTER. Record the number. Press ENTER 2 more times (even the repeats). Record these numbers. Record the three quiz scores in column one that correspond to these three numbers.
• Repeat for columns two through six.
• These 18 quiz scores are a stratified sample.
2. Create a cluster sample by picking two of the columns. Use the column numbers: one through six.
• Press MATH and arrow over to PRB.
• Press 5:randInt( and enter 1,6). Press ENTER. Record the number. Press ENTER and record that number.
• The two numbers are for two of the columns.
• The quiz scores (20 of them) in these 2 columns are the cluster sample.
3. Create a simple random sample of 15 quiz scores.
• Use the numbering one through 60.
• Press MATH. Arrow over to PRB. Press 5:randInt( and enter 1, 60).
• Press ENTER 15 times and record the numbers.
• Record the quiz scores that correspond to these numbers.
• These 15 quiz scores are the systematic sample.
4. Create a systematic sample of 12 quiz scores.
• Use the numbering one through 60.
• Press MATH. Arrow over to PRB. Press 5:randInt( and enter 1, 60).
• Press ENTER. Record the number and the first quiz score. From that number, count ten quiz scores and record that quiz score. Keep counting ten quiz scores and recording the quiz score until you have a sample of 12 quiz scores. You may wrap around (go back to the beginning).

Example $$\PageIndex{10}$$

Determine the type of sampling used (simple random, stratified, systematic, cluster, or convenience).

1. A soccer coach selects six players from a group of boys aged eight to ten, seven players from a group of boys aged 11 to 12, and three players from a group of boys aged 13 to 14 to form a recreational soccer team.
2. A pollster interviews all human resource personnel in five different high tech companies.
3. A high school educational researcher interviews 50 high school female teachers and 50 high school male teachers.
4. A medical researcher interviews every third cancer patient from a list of cancer patients at a local hospital.
5. A high school counselor uses a computer to generate 50 random numbers and then picks students whose names correspond to the numbers.
6. A student interviews classmates in his algebra class to determine how many pairs of jeans a student owns, on the average.

a. stratified; b. cluster; c. stratified; d. systematic; e. simple random; f.convenience

Exercise $$\PageIndex{11}$$

Determine the type of sampling used (simple random, stratified, systematic, cluster, or convenience).

A high school principal polls 50 freshmen, 50 sophomores, 50 juniors, and 50 seniors regarding policy changes for after school activities.

stratified

If we were to examine two samples representing the same population, even if we used random sampling methods for the samples, they would not be exactly the same. Just as there is variation in data, there is variation in samples. As you become accustomed to sampling, the variability will begin to seem natural.

Example $$\PageIndex{12}$$: Sampling

Suppose ABC College has 10,000 part-time students (the population). We are interested in the average amount of money a part-time student spends on books in the fall term. Asking all 10,000 students is an almost impossible task. Suppose we take two different samples.

First, we use convenience sampling and survey ten students from a first term organic chemistry class. Many of these students are taking first term calculus in addition to the organic chemistry class. The amount of money they spend on books is as follows:

$128;$87; $173;$116; $130;$204; $147;$189; $93;$153

The second sample is taken using a list of senior citizens who take P.E. classes and taking every fifth senior citizen on the list, for a total of ten senior citizens. They spend:

$50;$40; $36;$15; $50;$100; $40;$53; $22;$22

a. Do you think that either of these samples is representative of (or is characteristic of) the entire 10,000 part-time student population?

a. No. The first sample probably consists of science-oriented students. Besides the chemistry course, some of them are also taking first-term calculus. Books for these classes tend to be expensive. Most of these students are, more than likely, paying more than the average part-time student for their books. The second sample is a group of senior citizens who are, more than likely, taking courses for health and interest. The amount of money they spend on books is probably much less than the average parttime student. Both samples are biased. Also, in both cases, not all students have a chance to be in either sample.

b. Since these samples are not representative of the entire population, is it wise to use the results to describe the entire population?

b. No. For these samples, each member of the population did not have an equally likely chance of being chosen.

Now, suppose we take a third sample. We choose ten different part-time students from the disciplines of chemistry, math, English, psychology, sociology, history, nursing, physical education, art, and early childhood development. (We assume that these are the only disciplines in which part-time students at ABC College are enrolled and that an equal number of part-time students are enrolled in each of the disciplines.) Each student is chosen using simple random sampling. Using a calculator, random numbers are generated and a student from a particular discipline is selected if he or she has a corresponding number. The students spend the following amounts:

$180;$50; $150;$85; $260;$75; $180;$200; $200;$150

c. Is the sample biased?

Students often ask if it is "good enough" to take a sample, instead of surveying the entire population. If the survey is done well, the answer is yes.

Exercise $$\PageIndex{12}$$

A local radio station has a fan base of 20,000 listeners. The station wants to know if its audience would prefer more music or more talk shows. Asking all 20,000 listeners is an almost impossible task.

The station uses convenience sampling and surveys the first 200 people they meet at one of the station’s music concert events. 24 people said they’d prefer more talk shows, and 176 people said they’d prefer more music.

Do you think that this sample is representative of (or is characteristic of) the entire 20,000 listener population?

The sample probably consists more of people who prefer music because it is a concert event. Also, the sample represents only those who showed up to the event earlier than the majority. The sample probably doesn’t represent the entire fan base and is probably biased towards people who would prefer music.

Collaborative Exercise $$\PageIndex{8}$$

As a class, determine whether or not the following samples are representative. If they are not, discuss the reasons.

1. To find the average GPA of all students in a university, use all honor students at the university as the sample.
2. To find out the most popular cereal among young people under the age of ten, stand outside a large supermarket for three hours and speak to every twentieth child under age ten who enters the supermarket.
3. To find the average annual income of all adults in the United States, sample U.S. congressmen. Create a cluster sample by considering each state as a stratum (group). By using simple random sampling, select states to be part of the cluster. Then survey every U.S. congressman in the cluster.
4. To determine the proportion of people taking public transportation to work, survey 20 people in New York City. Conduct the survey by sitting in Central Park on a bench and interviewing every person who sits next to you.
5. To determine the average cost of a two-day stay in a hospital in Massachusetts, survey 100 hospitals across the state using simple random sampling.

## References

1. Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. http://www.well-beingindex.com/default.asp (accessed May 1, 2013).
2. Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. http://www.well-beingindex.com/methodology.asp (accessed May 1, 2013).
3. Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. http://www.gallup.com/poll/146822/ga...questions.aspx (accessed May 1, 2013).
4. Data from www.bookofodds.com/Relationsh...-the-President
5. Dominic Lusinchi, “’President’ Landon and the 1936 Literary Digest Poll: Were Automobile and Telephone Owners to Blame?” Social Science History 36, no. 1: 23-54 (2012), ssh.dukejournals.org/content/36/1/23.abstract (accessed May 1, 2013).
6. “The Literary Digest Poll,” Virtual Laboratories in Probability and Statistics http://www.math.uah.edu/stat/data/LiteraryDigest.html (accessed May 1, 2013).
7. “Gallup Presidential Election Trial-Heat Trends, 1936–2008,” Gallup Politics http://www.gallup.com/poll/110548/ga...9362004.aspx#4 (accessed May 1, 2013).
8. The Data and Story Library, lib.stat.cmu.edu/DASL/Datafiles/USCrime.html (accessed May 1, 2013).
9. LBCC Distance Learning (DL) program data in 2010-2011, http://de.lbcc.edu/reports/2010-11/f...hts.html#focus (accessed May 1, 2013).
10. Data from San Jose Mercury News

## Review

Data are individual items of information that come from a population or sample. Data may be classified as qualitative, quantitative continuous, or quantitative discrete.

Because it is not practical to measure the entire population in a study, researchers use samples to represent the population. A random sample is a representative group from the population chosen by using a method that gives each individual in the population an equal chance of being included in the sample. Random sampling methods include simple random sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling, and systematic sampling. Convenience sampling is a nonrandom method of choosing a sample that often produces biased data.

Samples that contain different individuals result in different data. This is true even when the samples are well-chosen and representative of the population. When properly selected, larger samples model the population more closely than smaller samples. There are many different potential problems that can affect the reliability of a sample. Statistical data needs to be critically analyzed, not simply accepted.

## Footnotes

1. lastbaldeagle. 2013. On Tax Day, House to Call for Firing Federal Workers Who Owe Back Taxes. Opinion poll posted online at: www.youpolls.com/details.aspx?id=12328 (accessed May 1, 2013).
2. Scott Keeter et al., “Gauging the Impact of Growing Nonresponse on Estimates from a National RDD Telephone Survey,” Public Opinion Quarterly 70 no. 5 (2006), http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/70/5/759.full (accessed May 1, 2013).
3. Frequently Asked Questions, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, www.people-press.org/methodol...wer-your-polls (accessed May 1, 2013).

## Glossary

Cluster Sampling
a method for selecting a random sample and dividing the population into groups (clusters); use simple random sampling to select a set of clusters. Every individual in the chosen clusters is included in the sample.
Convenience Sampling
a nonrandom method of selecting a sample; this method selects individuals that are easily accessible and may result in biased data.
Nonsampling Error
an issue that affects the reliability of sampling data other than natural variation; it includes a variety of human errors including poor study design, biased sampling methods, inaccurate information provided by study participants, data entry errors, and poor analysis.
Random Sampling
a method of selecting a sample that gives every member of the population an equal chance of being selected.
Sampling Bias
not all members of the population are equally likely to be selected
Sampling Error
the natural variation that results from selecting a sample to represent a larger population; this variation decreases as the sample size increases, so selecting larger samples reduces sampling error.
Sampling with Replacement
Once a member of the population is selected for inclusion in a sample, that member is returned to the population for the selection of the next individual.
Sampling without Replacement
A member of the population may be chosen for inclusion in a sample only once. If chosen, the member is not returned to the population before the next selection.
Simple Random Sampling
a straightforward method for selecting a random sample; give each member of the population a number. Use a random number generator to select a set of labels. These randomly selected labels identify the members of your sample.
Stratified Sampling
a method for selecting a random sample used to ensure that subgroups of the population are represented adequately; divide the population into groups (strata). Use simple random sampling to identify a proportionate number of individuals from each stratum.
Systematic Sampling
a method for selecting a random sample; list the members of the population. Use simple random sampling to select a starting point in the population. Let k = (number of individuals in the population)/(number of individuals needed in the sample). Choose every kth individual in the list starting with the one that was randomly selected. If necessary, return to the beginning of the population list to complete your sample.

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