You are on page 1of 20

Numeracy & Quantitative Methods

Laura Lake
Probability sample a method of sampling that uses of
random selection so that all units/ cases in the population
have an equal probability of being chosen.
Non-probability sample does not involve random
selection and methods are not based on the rationale of
probability theory.

Types of Sampling
Why is probability sampling important in quantitative research?
Research finding not based on samples that are biased /
unrepresentative.
Based on a sampling frame it enables research to be replicable
or repeatable.
Research results can be projected from the sample to the larger
population with known levels of certainty/precision (i.e. standard
errors & confidence intervals for survey estimates can be constructed).
Probability Sampling in
Quantitative Research
To achieve this the sampling frame used needs to:
ensure that the correct population is being sampled i.e. it
addresses the questions of interest
accurately covers all members of the population being studied
so they have a chance to be sampled.
The quality of the population list (sampling frame) i.e.
whether it is up-to-date and complete is the most important
feature for accuracy in the sampling.

Probability Sampling in
Quantitative Research
Four main types of probability sampling:
1.Simple random sample
2.Systematic sample
3.Stratified random sample
4.Cluster/ multi-stage random sample

Types of Probability
Sampling
Randomly selecting units from a sampling frame.
Random means mathematically each unit from the
sampling frame has an equal probability of being included in
the sample.
Stages in random sampling:
Simple Random Sampling
Define
population
Develop
sampling
frame
Assign each
unit a
number
Randomly
select the
required
amount of
random
numbers
Systematically
select random
numbers until it
meets the
sample size
requirements
Similar to simple random sample.
No table of random numbers select directly from sampling
frame.

Systematic Sampling
Define
population
Develop
sampling
frame
Decide the
sample size
Work out
what fraction
of the frame
the sample
size
represents
Select
according to
fraction (100
sample from
1,000 frame
then 10% so
every 10
th
unit)
First unit
select by
random
numbers
then every
nth unit
selected
(e.g. every
10
th
)
Gold standard of sampling.
Why? Designed to be more representative of the population
where the sampling frame is stratified according to
population variables .
Variables selected for stratifying are determined by the
characteristics needed by the research.
Stratification splitting the population into the different
strata (variables e.g. gender, age, ethnic background).
Samples can be stratified across more than one variable.

Stratified Random Sample
As a random sample:
Stratified Random Sample
Define population
Develop sampling
frame according
to characteristics
required
Determine the
proportion of
each population
variable of
interest
Systematic sampling
methods can then be
followed to select
sample unit
Cluster sampling: selecting a sample based on specific,
naturally occurring groups (clusters) within a population.
- Example: randomly selecting 20 hospitals from a list of all
hospitals in England.
Multi-stage sampling: cluster sampling repeated at a number of
levels.
- Example: randomly selecting hospitals by county and then a
sample of patients from each selected hospital.

Cluster/ multi-stage
random sample
Three main types of non-probability sampling:
1.Convenience
2.Quota
3.Snowball


Non-Probability Sampling
A sample selected for ease of access, immediately known
population group.
+ good response rate.
cannot generalise findings (do not know what population
group the sample is representative of) so cannot move
beyond describing the sample.


Convenience Sampling
Aim is to sample reflecting proportions of population in
different categories or quotas (e.g. gender, age, ethnicity).
Used in often in market and opinion poll research.
+ easy to manage, quick
only reflects population in terms of the quota, possibility of
bias in selection, no standard error


Quota Sampling
Useful when a population is hidden or difficult to gain access
to.
The contact with an initial group is used to make contact
with others.
+ access to difficult to reach populations (other methods
may not yield any results).
- not representative of the population and will result in a
biased sample as it is self-selecting.


Snowball Sampling
How large should my sample be in order for it to be
representative?
Larger samples are not necessarily better how
representative a sample it depends on the sampling technique
used and the size of the population.
Determining sample size is dependent of how much error
you are prepared to accept in your sample.

Sample Size?
The larger the sample size the more likely error in the sample
will decrease.
But, beyond a certain point increasing sample size does not
provide large reductions in sampling error.
Accuracy is a reflection of the sampling error and confidence
level of the data.
Sampling Error and
Confidence
If a sample has been selected according to probability we
can assess the level of confidence.
Confidence levels will allow you to state, with a certain level
of confidence, that the sample findings would also be found in
the population.

Sampling Error and
Confidence
Example:





+/ - 3% at 95% confidence level

A confidence interval of +/- 3% at the 95% confidence level
means that, 95% of the time, the true answer will be within
3% of the survey findings.

Confidence Intervals
Voting behaviour % of poll
Labour 37%
Conservative 35%
Liberal Democrat 22%
Other 6%
Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods. 3
rd
Ed. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

David, M. and Sutton, C. (2004) Social Research :The Basics.
London: Sage.

ESRC Survey Measurement Programme. Online: available from
Survey Resource Network http://www.surveynet.ac.uk/

Oppenheim, A. (2000) Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and
Attitude Measurement. London: Continuum
References
This resource was created by the University of Plymouth, Learning from WOeRk project. This project is funded by HEFCE
as part of the HEA/JISC OER release programme.
This resource is licensed under the terms of the Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England
& Wales license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/).
The resource, where specified below, contains other 3
rd
party materials under their own licenses. The licenses
and attributions are outlined below:

1. The name of the University of Plymouth and its logos are unregistered trade marks of the University. The University reserves all rights
to these items beyond their inclusion in these CC resources.
2. The JISC logo, the and the logo of the Higher Education Academy are licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
-non-commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK England & Wales license. All reproductions must comply with the terms of that license.


Author Laura Lake
Institute University of Plymouth
Title
Numeracy & Quantitative Methods
Sampling: Probability & non-probability sampling
Description
Overview of probability and non-probability sampling techniques in
quantitative research.
Date Created March 2011.
Educational Level Level 5
Keywords
UKOER LFWOERK UOPCPDRM Learning from Woerk WBL Work Based
Learning CPD Continuous Professional Development Probability sample,
non-probability sample, simple random sample, systematic sample,
stratified random sample, cluster/ multi-stage random sample,
stratification, convenience sampling, quota sampling, snowball
sampling, sampling error, confidence intervals.
Creative Commons License Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license
Back page originally developed by the OER phase 1 C-Change project
University of Plymouth, 2010, some rights reserved