Why use a sample

In survey research, samples are used to make an estimate of what the whole population of interest is like or what it thinks or does. In theory, it would be possible to measure or to question all members of the population of interest; this is known as a census, but in practice this would prove difficult. It is the practical advantages that account for the fact that samples are the normal method of collecting data, rather than censuses in which everyone must be included. The smaller the number of people from whom data is to be collected, the cheaper and quicker the process will be. Analysis of the data will be more manageable and control of the whole procedure more effectively achieved. Added to these highly practical advantages is the fact that good sampling procedures allow a high degree of precision in estimating the results that would have been achieved from a census, and so the argument for sampling becomes overwhelming and explains its almost universal usage.

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