Sampling is the selection of a part of statistical population to estimate characteristics of the whole population. Each sampling observation measures one or more properties of observable bodies distinguished as independent objects or individuals. In survey , weights can be applied to the data to adjust for the sample design, particularly stratified sampling. Results from probability theory and statistical theory are employed to guide the practice. In research, sampling is widely used for gathering information about a population.
Some Sampling Terms
These are some sampling terms we should be aware of.
Universe:Theoretical arena of all the population of the area.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.
The population we are concerned with.
The Process of Sampling
The sampling process comprise of several stages:
• Defining population
• Specifying sampling frame
• Specifying the Sampling Unit
• Determining a sample size
• Implementing sampling plan
• Sampling and data collection
• Data which can be selected
Defining the population of interest, for Geographical 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.
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.
Specifying 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. 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
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. If it is possible to identify the exact target audience of the geographical 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Types of samples
Sampling methods are classified as either probability or nonprobability. In probability samples, each member of the population has a known non-zero probability of being selected. Probability methods include Simple/random sampling, systematic sampling, and stratified sampling. In nonprobability sampling, members are selected from the population in some nonrandom manner. These include convenience sampling, judgment sampling, quota sampling, and snowball sampling. The advantage of probability sampling is that sampling error can be calculated. Sampling error is the degree to which a sample might differ from the population. When inferring to the population, results are reported plus or minus the sampling error. In nonprobability sampling, the degree to which the sample differs from the population remains unknown.
Simple Sampling is the purest form of probability sampling. Each member of the population has an equal and known chance of being selected. When there are very large populations, it is often difficult or impossible to identify every member of the population, so the pool of available subjects becomes biased.
Systematic sampling is often used instead of random sampling. It is also called an Nth name selection technique. After the required sample size has been calculated, every Nth record is selected from a list of population members. As long as the list does not contain any hidden order, this sampling method is as good as the random sampling method. Its only advantage over the random sampling technique is simplicity. Systematic sampling is frequently used to select a specified number of records from a computer file.
Stratified sampling is commonly used probability method that is superior to random sampling because it reduces sampling error. A stratum is a subset of the population that share at least one common characteristic. Examples of stratums might be males and females, or managers and non-managers. The researcher first identifies the relevant stratums and their actual representation in the population. Random sampling is then used to select a sufficient number of subjects from each stratum. “Sufficient” refers to a sample size large enough for us to be reasonably confident that the stratum represents the population. Stratified sampling is often used when one or more of the stratums in the population have a low incidence relative to the other stratums.
The equal chance of selection here means that sources such as a telephone book or voter registration lists are not adequate for providing a random sample of a community. In both these cases there will be a number of residents whose names are not listed. Telephone surveys get around this problem by random-digit dialing — but that assumes that everyone in the population has a telephone. The key to random selection is that there is no bias involved in the selection of the sample. Any variation between the sample characteristics and the population characteristics is only a matter of chance.
Non Probability Sampling
Convenience sampling is used in exploratory research where the researcher is interested in getting an inexpensive approximation of the truth. As the name implies, the sample is selected because they are convenient. This nonprobability method is often used during preliminary research efforts to get a gross estimate of the results, without incurring the cost or time required to select a random sample.
Judgment sampling is a common nonprobability method. The researcher selects the sample based on judgment. This is usually an extension of convenience sampling. For example, a researcher may decide to draw the entire sample from one “representative” city, even though the population includes all cities. When using this method, the researcher must be confident that the chosen sample is truly representative of the entire population.
Quota sampling is the nonprobability equivalent of stratified sampling. Like stratified sampling, the researcher first identifies the stratums and their proportions as they are represented in the population. Then convenience or judgment sampling is used to select the required number of subjects from each stratum. This differs from stratified sampling, where the stratums are filled by random sampling.
Snowball sampling is a special nonprobability method used when the desired sample characteristic is rare. It may be extremely difficult or cost prohibitive to locate respondents in these situations. Snowball sampling relies on referrals from initial subjects to generate additional subjects. While this technique can dramatically lower search costs, it comes at the expense of introducing bias because the technique itself reduces the likelihood that the sample will represent a good cross section from the population.