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Chapter 9

Examining Populations and Samples


in Research

Copyright © 2011 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc. 1


Sampling Concepts
 Sampling: Selecting a group of people,
events, behaviors, or other elements with
which to conduct a study
 Sampling plan: Sampling method; defines
the selection process
 Sample: Defines the selected group of
people or elements from which data are
collected for a study
 Members of the sample can be called the
subjects or participants.
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Populations and Elements
 Population: A particular group of individuals or
elements who are the focus of the research
 Target population: An entire set of individuals or
elements who meet the sampling criteria
 Accessible population: The portion of the target
population to which the researcher has reasonable
access
 Elements: Individual units of the population and
sample

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Generalization
 Extending the findings from the sample under
study to the larger population
 The extent is influenced by the quality of the
study and consistency of the study’s findings.

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Sampling Criteria: Inclusion
 Characteristics that the subject or element
must possess to be part of the target
population
 Examples:
 Between the ages of 18 and 45
 Ability to speak English
 Admitted for gallbladder surgery
 Diagnosed with diabetes within past month

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Sampling Criteria: Exclusion
 Characteristics that can cause a person or
element to be excluded from the target
population
 Examples:
 Diagnosis of mental illness
 Less than 18 years of age
 Diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction
 Unable to read or speak English

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Defining Sampling Criteria
 Homogeneous sample: As similar as
possible so as to control for extraneous
variables
 Heterogeneous sample: Represents a
broad range of values
 Used when a narrow focus is not desirable

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Inappropriate Generalizations
 Samples cannot be generalized beyond their
sampling criteria.
 This may lead to inappropriate
generalizations:
 Because of language or reading ability
 To other types of illnesses or injuries

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Representativeness
 The sample, the accessible population, and
the target population are alike in as many
ways as possible.
 Need to evaluate:
 Setting
 Characteristics of subjects (age, gender, ethnicity,
income, education)
 Distribution of values on variables measured in the
study

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Sampling Error
 Difference between the population mean and
the mean of the sample
 Random variation
 The expected difference in values that occurs
when different subjects from the same sample are
examined
 Difference is random because some values will be
higher and others lower than the average
population values

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Sampling Error (cont’d)
Sampling error

Population Sample

Population Sample
mean mean
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Sampling Error (cont’d)
 Systematic variation (bias)
 Consequence of selecting subjects whose
measurement values differ in some specific way
from those of the population
 These values do not vary randomly around the
population mean.

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Random vs. Systematic Variation in
Sampling
 Random variation: Expected difference in
values that occurs when different subjects
from same sample are examined
 Difference is random because some values will be
higher or lower than the mean population value.
 As sample size increases, random variation
decreases.
 Systematic variation (or systematic bias):
Consequence of selecting subjects whose
measurement values differ in some way from
those of the population
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Refusal Rate vs. Acceptance Rate
 Refusal rate: Percentage of subjects who
declined to participate in the study
 80 subjects approached and 4 refused
 4  80 = 0.05 = 5% refusal rate
 Acceptance rate: Percentage of subjects
who consented to be in the study
 80 subjects approached and 76 accepted
 76  80 = 0.95 = 95% acceptance rate

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Sample Attrition and Retention
 Sample attrition: Withdrawal or loss of
subjects from a study
 Attrition rate = number of subjects withdrawing ÷
number of study subjects × 100
 Sample retention: Number of subjects who
remain in and complete a study.

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Random Sampling
 Increases the representativeness of the
sample based on the target population
 Control group: Used in studies with random
sampling
 Comparison group: Not randomly determined

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Sampling Frame and Sampling Plan
 Sampling frame: A listing of every member
of the population, using the sampling criteria
to define membership in the population
 Subjects are selected from the sampling
frame
 Sampling plan: Outlines strategies used to
obtain a sample for a study
 Probability sampling plans
 Nonprobability sampling plans

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Types of Probability Sampling
 Simple random sampling
 Stratified random sampling
 Cluster sampling
 Systematic sampling

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Simple Random Sampling
 Randomly choosing the sample
 Can use a table of random numbers
 Can draw names out of a hat

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Stratified Random Sampling
 Ensures all levels of identified variables are
adequately represented in the sample
 Needs a large population with which to start
 Variables often stratified
 Age, gender, socioeconomic status
 Types of nurses, sites of care

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Cluster Sampling
 All areas with the elements of the identified
population are linked.
 A randomized sample of these areas is then
chosen.
 Used to get a geographically diverse sample
 Also used when developing a sampling frame
is difficult because of a lack of knowledge of
the variables

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Systematic Sampling
 Selecting every kth individual on the list,
starting randomly
 Researcher must know number of elements
in the population and the sample size desired

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Nonprobability Sampling
 Quantitative research
 Convenience (accidental) sampling
 Quota sampling

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Convenience Sampling
 Also called accidental sampling
 Weak approach to sampling because it is
hard to control for bias
 The sample includes whomever is available
and willing to give consent.
 Representativeness is a concern.

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Quota Sampling
 Uses convenience sampling, but with a
strategy to ensure inclusion of subject types
who are likely to be underrepresented in the
convenience sample
 Goal is to replicate the proportions of
subgroups present in the population
 Works better than convenience sampling to
reduce bias

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Sample Size in Quantitative Studies
 Affect size
 Type of quantitative study conducted
 Number of variables
 Measurement sensitivity
 Data analysis techniques

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Power Analysis
 Ability to detect differences in the population
or capacity to correctly reject a null
hypothesis
 Standard power of 0.8
 Level of significance
 Alpha = 0.05, 0.01, 0.001

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Effect Size
 The effect is the presence of the
phenomenon being studied.
 The effect size is the extent to which the null
hypothesis is false.
 When the effect size is large (large variation
between groups), only a small sample is
needed.
 Increasing the sample size increases the
effect size.

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Number of Variables
 As the number of variables increases, the
sample size may increase.
 The inclusion of multiple dependent variables
also increases the sample size needed.

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Measurement Sensitivity
 Was the tool used a reliable and valid
measure of the variable?
 As the variance in the instrument scores
increases, the sample size needed to obtain
significance increases.

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Data Analysis Techniques
 ANOVA and t-test require equal group sizes,
which will increase power because the effect
size is maximized.
 Chi-square is the weakest of the tests and
requires a large sample size to achieve
acceptable levels of power.
 As the number of categories increases, the
sample size must increase as well.

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Critiquing the Sample
 Identify
 Elements
 Accessible population
 Target population
 Evaluate
 Appropriateness of generalization in quantitative
studies

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Critiquing the Sample (cont’d)
 Identify the sample criteria.
 Judge appropriateness of the sampling
criteria.
 Identify the sampling method.

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Nonprobability Sampling
 Qualitative research
 Purposive sampling
 Network or snowball sampling
 Theoretical sampling

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Purposeful or Purposive Sampling
 Also called judgmental or selective sampling
 Efforts are made to include typical or atypical
subjects.
 Sampling is based on the researcher’s
judgment.

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Network Sampling
 Also called snowball sampling
 Takes advantage of social networks to get the
sample
 One person in the sample asks another to
join the sample, and so on.

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Theoretical Sampling
 Used in grounded theory research
 Data are gathered from any individual or
group that can provide relevant data for
theory generation.
 The sample is saturated when the data
collection is complete based on the
researchers’ expectations.
 Diversity in the sample is encouraged.

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Sample Size in Qualitative Research
 Scope of the study
 Nature of the topic
 Quality of the data
 Study design

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Scope of the Study
 Broad studies require larger samples than
narrow studies.
 The sample size must be adequate for the
scope.

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Nature of the Topic
 If the study topic is clear, fewer subjects are
needed.
 If the topic is difficult to define, then a larger
sample is needed.

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Quality of the Data
 How rich are the data?
 Were data collected from the best sources?

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Study Design
 How many interviews were carried out?
 Was the design adequate for the variables?

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Adequacy of the Sample in Qualitative
Studies
 Are the sampling inclusion and exclusion
criteria appropriate?
 Is the sampling plan adequate to address the
purpose of the study?
 Is the sample size adequate?
 What are the refusal and mortality rates?

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Adequacy of the Sample in Qualitative
Studies (cont’d)
 Are sample characteristics and quality
described?
 Is there saturation of the data?
 Is the setting defined?

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Research Settings
 Natural or field setting: uncontrolled in real life
 Seen in descriptive or correlational studies
 Partially controlled setting: manipulated or
modified by the researcher
 Seen in correlational, quasi-, or experimental
studies
 Highly controlled setting: artificially
constructed by researcher (i.e., lab setting)
 Seen in experimental studies

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