Sample and Sampling
A Sampling is a part of the total population. It can be an individual element or a group of elements selected from the population. Although it is a subset, it is representative of the population and suitable for research in terms of cost, convenience, and time. The sample group can be selected based on a probability or a non probability approach. A sample usually consists of various units of the population. The size of the sample is represented by “n”.
A good sample is one which satisfies all or few of the following conditions:
- Representativeness: When sampling method is adopted by the researcher, the basic assumption is that the samples so selected out of the population are the best representative of the population under study. Thus good samples are those who accurately represent the population. Probability sampling technique yield representative samples. On measurement terms, the sample must be valid. The validity of a sample depends upon its accuracy.
- Accuracy: Accuracy is defined as the degree to which bias is absent from the sample. An accurate (unbiased) sample is one which exactly represents the population. It is free from any influence that causes any differences between sample value and population value.
- Size: A good sample must be adequate in size and reliable. The sample size should be such that the inferences drawn from the sample are accurate to a given level of confidence to represent the entire population under study.
The size of sample depends on number of factors. Some important among them are:
- Homogeneity or Heterogeneity of the universe: Selection of sample depends on the nature of the universe. It says that if the nature of universe is homogeneous then a small sample will represent the behavior of entire universe. This will lead to selection of small sample size rather than a large one. On the other hand, if the universe is heterogeneous in nature then samples are to be chosen as from each heterogeneous unit.
- Number of classes proposed: If a large number of class intervals to be made then the size of sample should be more because it has to represent the entire universe. In case of small samples there is the possibility that some samples may not be included.
- Nature of study: The size of sample also depends on the nature of study. For an intensive study which may be for a long time, large samples are to be chosen. Similarly, in case of general studies large number of respondents may be appropriate one but if the study is of technical in nature then the selection of large number of respondents may cause difficulty while gathering information.
Sampling is the act, process, or technique of selecting a representative part of a population for the purpose of determining the characteristics of the whole population. In other words, the process of selecting a sample from a population using special sampling techniques called sampling. It should be ensured in the sampling process itself that the sample selected is representative of the population.
- Population OR Universe: The entire aggregation of items from which samples can be drawn is known as a population. In sampling, the population may refer to the units, from which the sample is drawn. Population or populations of interest are interchangeable terms. The term “unit” is used, as in a business research process, samples are not necessarily people all the time. A population of interest may be the universe of nations or cities. This is one of the first things the analyst needs to define properly while conducting a business research. Therefore, population, contrary to its general notion as a nation’s entire population has a much broader meaning in sampling. “N” represents the size of the population.
- Census: A complete study of all the elements present in the population is known as a census. It is a time consuming and costly process and is, therefore, seldom a popular with researchers. The general notion that a census generates more accurate data than sampling is not always true. Limitations include failure in generating a complete and accurate list of all the members of the population and refusal of the elements to provide information. The national population census is an example of census survey.
- Precision: Precision is a measure of how close an estimate is expected to be, to the true value of a parameter. Precision is a measure of similarity. Precision is usually expressed in terms of imprecision and related to the standard error of the estimate. Less precision is reflected by a larger standard error.
- Bias: Bias is the term refers to how far the average statistic lies from the parameter it is estimating, that is, the error, which arises when estimating a quantity. Errors from chance will cancel each other out in the long run, those from bias will not. Bias can take different forms.
Steps in Sampling Process
An operational sampling process can be divided into seven steps as given below:
- Defining the target population.
- Specifying the sampling frame.
- Specifying the sampling unit.
- Selection of the sampling method.
- Determination of sample size.
- Specifying the sampling plan.
- Selecting the sample.
1. Defining the Target Population:
Defining the population of interest, for business research, is the first step in sampling process. In general, target population is defined in terms of element, sampling unit, extent, and time frame. The definition should be in line with the objectives of the research study. For ex, if a kitchen appliances firm wants to conduct a survey to ascertain the demand for its micro ovens, it may define the population as ‘all women above the age of 20 who cook (assuming that very few men cook)’. However this definition is too broad and will include every household in the country, in the population that is to be covered by the survey. Therefore the definition can be further refined and defined at the sampling unit level, that, all women above the age 20, who cook and whose monthly household income exceeds Rs.20,000. This reduces the target population size and makes the research more focused. The population definition can be refined further by specifying the area from where the researcher has to draw his sample, that is, households located in Hyderabad.
A well defined population reduces the probability of including the respondents who do not fit the research objective of the company. For ex, if the population is defined as all women above the age of 20, the researcher may end up taking the opinions of a large number of women who cannot afford to buy a micro oven.
2. Specifying the Sampling Frame:
Once the definition of the population is clear a researcher should decide on the sampling frame. A sampling frame is the list of elements from which the sample may be drawn. Continuing with the micro oven ex, an ideal sampling frame would be a database that contains all the households that have a monthly income above Rs.20,000. However, in practice it is difficult to get an exhaustive sampling frame that exactly fits the requirements of a particular research. In general, researchers use easily available sampling frames like telephone directories and lists of credit card and mobile phone users. Various private players provide databases developed along various demographic and economic variables. Sometimes, maps and aerial pictures are also used as sampling frames. Whatever may be the case, an ideal sampling frame is one that entire population and lists the names of its elements only once.
A sampling frame error pops up when the sampling frame does not accurately represent the total population or when some elements of the population are missing another drawback in the sampling frame is over —representation. A telephone directory can be over represented by names/household that have two or more connections.
3. Specifying the Sampling Unit:
A sampling unit is a basic unit that contains a single element or a group of elements of the population to be sampled. In this case, a household becomes a sampling unit and all women above the age of 20 years living in that particular house become the sampling elements. If it is possible to identify the exact target audience of the business research, every individual element would be a sampling unit. This would present a case of primary sampling unit. However, a convenient and better means of sampling would be to select households as the sampling unit and interview all females above 20 years, who cook. This would present a case of secondary sampling unit.
4. Selection of the Sampling Method:
The sampling method outlines the way in which the sample units are to be selected. The choice of the sampling method is influenced by the objectives of the business research, availability of financial resources, time constraints, and the nature of the problem to be investigated. All sampling methods can be grouped under two distinct heads, that is, probability and non-probability sampling.
5. Determination of Sample Size:
The sample size plays a crucial role in the sampling process. There are various ways of classifying the techniques used in determining the sample size. A couple those hold primary importance and are worth mentioning are whether the technique deals with fixed or sequential sampling and whether its logic is based on traditional or Bayesian methods. In non-probability sampling procedures, the allocation of budget, thumb rules and number of sub groups to be analyzed, importance of the decision, number of variables, nature of analysis, incidence rates, and completion rates play a major role in sample size determination. In the case of probability sampling, however, formulas are used to calculate the sample size after the levels of acceptable error and level of confidence are specified. The details of the various techniques used to determine the sample size will be explained at the end of the chapter.
6. Specifying the Sampling Plan:
In this step, the specifications and decisions regarding the implementation of the research process are outlined. Suppose, blocks in a city are the sampling units and the households are the sampling elements. This step outlines the modus operandi of the sampling plan in identifying houses based on specified characteristics. It includes issues like how is the interviewer going to take a systematic sample of the houses. What should the interviewer do when a house is vacant? What is the recontact procedure for respondents who were unavailable? All these and many other questions need to be answered for the smooth functioning of the research process. These are guide lines that would help the researcher in every step of the process. As the interviewers and their co-workers will be on field duty of most of the time, a proper specification of the sampling plans would make their work easy and they would not have to revert to their seniors when faced with operational problems.
7. Selecting the Sample:
This is the final step in the sampling process, where the actual selection of the sample elements is carried out. At this stage, it is necessary that the interviewers stick to the rules outlined for the smooth implementation of the business research. This step involves implementing the sampling plan to select the sampling plan to select a sample required for the survey.
Read More: Sampling Methods in Research