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Sampling method refers to the way that observations are selected from a population to be in the sample for a sample survey.

The reason for conducting a sample survey is to estimate the value of some attribute of a population.

Population parameter. A population parameter is the true value of a population attribute.

Sample statistic. A sample statistic is an estimate, based on sample data, of a population parameter.

Probability vs. Non-Probability Samples

As a group, sampling methods fall into one of two categories.

Probability samples. With probability sampling methods, each population element has a known (non-zero) chance of being chosen for the sample.

Non-probability samples. With non-probability sampling methods, we do not know the probability that each population element will be chosen, and/or we cannot be sure that each population element has a non-zero chance of

Non-Probability Sampling Methods

Non-probability sampling methods offer two potential advantages - convenience and cost. The main disadvantage is that non-probability sampling methods do not allow you to estimate the extent to which sample statistics are likely to differ from population parameters. Only probability sampling methods permit that kind of analysis

Two of the main types of non- probability sampling methods are voluntary samples and convenience samples.

Voluntary sample. A voluntary sample is made up of people who self-select into the survey. Often, these folks have a strong interest in the main topic of the survey.

Convenience sample. A convenience sample is made up of people who are easy to reach.

Consider the following example. A pollster interviews shoppers at a local mall. If the mall was chosen because it was a convenient site from which to solicit survey participants and/or because it was close to the pollster's home or business, this would be a convenience sample.

Probability Sampling Methods

The main types of probability sampling methods are simple random sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling, multistage sampling, and systematic random sampling. The key benefit of probability sampling methods is that they guarantee that the sample chosen is representative of the population. This ensures that the statistical conclusions will be valid.

Simple random sampling. Simple random sampling refers to any sampling method that has the following properties.

The population consists of N objects. The sample consists of n objects.

If all possible samples of n objects are equally likely to occur, the sampling method is called simple random sampling.

Stratified sampling. With stratified sampling, the population is divided into groups, based on some characteristic. Then, within each group, a probability sample (often a simple random sample) is selected. In stratified sampling, the groups are called strata.

Multistage sampling. With multistage sampling, we select a sample by using combinations of different sampling methods.

Systematic random sampling. With systematic random sampling, we create a list of every member of the population. From the list, we randomly select the first sample element from the first k elements on the population list. Thereafter, we select every kth element on the list.

Test Your Understanding


An auto analyst is conducting a satisfaction survey, sampling from a list of 10,000 new car buyers. The list includes 2,500 Ford buyers, 2,500 GM buyers, 2,500 Honda buyers, and 2,500 Toyota buyers. The analyst selects a sample of 400 car buyers, by randomly sampling 100 buyers of each brand.

Is this an example of a simple random sample?


(A) Yes, because each buyer in the sample was randomly sampled.

  • (B) Yes, because each buyer in the sample

had an equal chance of being sampled.

  • (C) Yes, because car buyers of every brand

were equally represented in the sample.

  • (D) No, because every possible 400-buyer

sample did not have an equal chance of

being chosen.

  • (E) No, because the population consisted of

purchasers of four different brands of car.