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What sampling methods?

(From People, Places and Themes textbook)

Sampling is an important skill to understand when collecting data. Taking a

sample using recognised sampling methods avoids bias and will give a more
representative range of results.

Decisions have to be made about where to got to collect the data, which
people need to be asked as well as when and what you are going to ask.

A target sample will focus on a particular group of people or trees or shops


Samples can be taken in different ways:

• A systematic sample takes only s selected sample at set intervals of

numbers, for example, every fifth or sixth person, house or item.
Stones might be measured every five meters.

• A stratified sample takes a proportional sample from each group. For

example, when conducting a questionnaire in a village which has 20
new private houses, 40 old private houses and 40 local authority
houses, a representative sample from each housing type is needed. By
selecting 25% of each group (5, 10 and 10) a proportional sample is
collected. This could also be done with tree types, rock types, age
groups etc. This applies to you if you are looking at the number of
something (litter, houses, parked cars etc) on streets of very different

• A random sample selects a sample by chance. You may select people

in the street at random or drop a frame down at random to survey
plant species.

In addition, a decision must be made about whether your sampling will be of

points, areas or lines. Transects (or line sampling) are a method which
involves collecting data along a straight line. Changes in temperature,
vegetation type or size of beach material could be sampled by using a
transect line from one point to another.

Whatever, method of sampling is used, sufficient numbers must always be

taken to ensure an accurate representation of features or opinions. The
more opinions you collect, the more reliable, or significant, your conclusions
will be.