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If we were to examine two samples representing the same population, even if we used random sampling methods for the samples, they would not be exactly the same. Just as there is variation in data, there is variation in samples. As you become accustomed to sampling, the variability will seem natural.
Suppose ABC College has 10,000 part-time students (the population). We are interested in the average amount of money a part-time student spends on books in the fall term. Asking all 10,000 students is an almost impossible task.
Suppose we take two different samples.
First, we use convenience sampling and survey 10 students from a first term organic chemistry class. Many of these students are taking first term calculus in addition to the organic chemistry class . The amount of money they spend is as follows:
The second sample is taken by using a list from the P.E. department of senior citizens who take P.E. classes and taking every 5th senior citizen on the list, for a total of 10 senior citizens. They spend:
Do you think that either of these samples is representative of (or is characteristic of) the entire 10,000 part-time student population?
No . The first sample probably consists of science-oriented students. Besides the chemistry course, some of them are taking first-term calculus. Books for these classes tend to be expensive. Most of these students are, more than likely, paying more than the average part-time student for their books. The second sample is a group of senior citizens who are, more than likely, taking courses for health and interest. The amount of money they spend on books is probably much less than the average part-time student. Both samples are biased. Also, in both cases, not all students have a chance to be in either sample.
Since these samples are not representative of the entire population, is it wise to use the results to describe the entire population?
No. For these samples, each member of the population did not have an equally likely chance of being chosen.
Now, suppose we take a third sample. We choose ten different part-time students from the disciplines of chemistry, math, English, psychology, sociology, history, nursing, physical education, art, and early childhood development. (We assume that these are the only disciplines in which part-time students at ABC College are enrolled and that an equal number of part-time students are enrolled in each of the disciplines.) Each student is chosen using simple random sampling. Using a calculator, random numbers are generated and a student from a particular discipline is selected if he/she has a corresponding number. The students spend:
Is the sample biased?
The sample is unbiased, but a larger sample would be recommended to increase the likelihood that the sample will be close to representative of the population. However, for a biased sampling technique, even a large sample runs the risk of not being representative of the population.
Students often ask if it is "good enough" to take a sample, instead of surveying the entire population. If the survey is done well, the answer is yes.
As a class, determine whether or not the following samples are representative. If they are not, discuss the reasons.
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