Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

# Nonprobability sampling

Sampling is the use of a subset of the population to represent the whole population. Probability sampling, or random sampling, is a sampling technique in which the probability of getting any particular sample may be calculated. Nonprobability sampling does not meet this criterion and should be used with caution. Nonprobability sampling techniques cannot be used to infer from the sample to the general population. Any generalizations obtained from a nonprobability study must be filtered through ones knowledge of the topic being studied. Performing nonprobability sampling is considerably less expense than doing probability sampling.

Examples of nonprobability sampling include:

• Convenience sampling - members of the population are chosen based on their relative ease of access. To sample friends, co-workers, or shoppers at a single mall, are all examples of convience sampling.
• Snowball sampling - The first respondent refers a friend. The friend also referes a friend, ect.
• Judgmental sampling or Purposive sampling - The researcher chooses the sample based on who they think would be appropriate for the study. This is used primarily when there is a limited number of people that have expertise in the area being researched.
• Case study - The research is limited to one group.
• ad hoc quotas - A quota is established (say 65% women) and researchers are free to choose any respondent they wish as long as the quota is met.

Even studies intended to be probability studies sometimes end up being non-probability studies. In public opinion polling by private companies (or organizations unable to require response), the sample can be self-selected rather than random. This often introduces an important type of error : self-selection error. This error sometimes makes it unlikely that the sample will accurately represent the broader population. Volunteering for the sample may be determined by characteristics such as submissiveness or availability. The samples in such surveys should be treated as non-probability samples of the population, and the validity of the estimates of parameters based on them unknown.