Random sampling

The key component of scientific sampling procedures is random sampling. This involves selecting members of the population to be included in your sample on a completely random basis, a bit like drawing numbers from a hat (e.g., by numbering each member and then asking the computer to generate random numbers). The assumption underlying this procedure is that it minimizes the effects of any extraneous or subjective variables that might affect the outcome of the survey study. Combining random sampling with some form of rational grouping is a particularly effective method for surveys with a specific focus (Aiken, 1997). In area sampling or cluster sampling or stratified random sampling the population is divided into groups, or 'strata,' and a random sample of a proportionate size is selected from each group. In studies following this method, the population is usually stratified on more than one variable and samples are selected at random from the groups defined by the intersections of the various strata (e.g., we would sample female learners of Spanish, aged 13-14, who attend a particular type of instructional program in a particular location).

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