The sampling process begins by defining the frame. The frame is the listing of items that
make up the population. Examples are wing members, squadron training records, number of
primary aircraft authorized, etc.
Figure 1 below shows the two broad categories of sampling and some commonly used
sampling methods under each one. The difference between them is that in probability sampling,
every item has a 'chance' of being selected, and that chance can be quantified. This is not true for
nonprobability sampling; every item in a population does not have an equal chance of being
selected.
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BIAS
In the above chart on nonprobability verses probability, you will notice one of the
disadvantages of nonprobability sampling is selection bias. So what is bias and why do you care
about it as an inspector?
Bias is a general statistical term meaning a systematic (not random) deviation from the
true value. A bias of a measurement or a sampling procedure may pose a more serious problem
for the inspector than random errors because it cannot be reduced by mere increase in sample
size and averaging the outcomes (Berenson, Levine, Krehbiel, 2009).
For example, suppose your wing commander wants to know the wing members overall
opinion of medical services provided by the medical group. A random sample of 200 individuals
has been drawn from within the medical group. If medical group personal opinions about the
quality of medical services vary from the rest of the wing, then such a poll is biased. Even if we
increase the sample size of medical group personnel to 500, the systematic error is still the same.
The sampling strategy introduced bias as it is quite possible that unit as well as professional pride
would create a deviation between medical group opinion as compared to the total base
population. The deviation is equal to the difference between the population of the medical group
and the whole wing population.
This is important to you as an inspector because sampling bias leads to a systematic
distortion of the estimate of the sampled probability distribution. In laymens terms, the answer
you got from the sample does not reflect the real answer for the population. This means you
could provide misleading information (good or bad) to your wing commander. This could result
in you wing commander addressing a problem that doesnt really exist or its severity in minimal.
Or, your wing commander may not take any corrective action when in reality some action is
required. Also, referring back to Handout 2 Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation,
there are numerous statements saying that inspector and inspection findings should be free from
bias or be unbiased.
Sometimes due to resource constraints, you will be forced to use nonprobability
sampling techniques. In those cases, you must remember your sample will contain some sort of
selection bias, the resulting answers cannot be used for statistical inference, and you must clearly
communicate the limitations of the information to your wing commander.
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Probability Sampling
Probability sampling involves the selection of a sample from a population, based on the
principle of randomization or chance. Probability sampling is more complex, more timeconsuming and usually more costly than nonprobability sampling. However, because items from
the population are randomly selected and each item's probability of inclusion can be calculated,
reliable estimates can be produced along with estimates of the sampling error, and inferences can
be made about the population.
The following are some common probability sampling methods:
simple random sampling
systematic sampling
stratified sampling
cluster sampling
Simple random sampling
In simple random sampling, each member of a population has an equal chance of being included
in the sample. Also, each combination of members of the population has an equal chance of
composing the sample. Those two properties are what defines simple random sampling. To select
a simple random sample, you need to list all of the items in the survey population.
Example 1: To draw a simple random sample of personnel from a wing, each member would
need to be numbered sequentially. If there were 5,000 members in the wing and if the sample
size were 360, then 360 numbers between 1 and 5,000 would need to be randomly generated by a
computer. Each number will have the same chance of being generated by the computer (in order
to fill the simple random sampling requirement of an equal chance for every item). The 360 wing
members corresponding to the 360 computergenerated random numbers would make up the
sample.
Simple random sampling is the easiest method of sampling and it is the most commonly
used. Advantages of this technique are that it does not require any additional information on the
frame (such as geographic areas) other than the complete list of members of the survey
population along with information for contact. Also, since simple random sampling is a simple
method and the theory behind it is well established, standard formulas exist to determine the
sample size, the estimates and so on, and these formulas are easy to use.
On the other hand, this technique makes no use of auxiliary information present on the
frame (i.e., number of employees in each business) that could make the design of the sample
more efficient. And although it is easy to apply simple random sampling to small populations, it
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can be expensive and unfeasible for large populations because all elements must be identified
and labeled prior to sampling.
Systematic sampling
Sometimes called interval sampling, systematic sampling means that there is a gap, or
interval, between each selected item in the sample. In order to select a systematic sample, you
need to follow these steps:
1. Number the items on your frame from 1 to N (where N is the total population size).
2. Determine the sampling interval (K) by dividing the number of items in the population by the
desired sample size. For example, to select a sample of 100 from a population of 400, you would
need a sampling interval of 400 100 = 4. Therefore, K = 4. You will need to select one item out
of every four items to end up with a total of 100 items in your sample.
3. Select a number between one and K at random. This number is called the random start and
would be the first number included in your sample. Using the sample above, you would select a
number between 1 and 4 from a table of random numbers or a random number generator. If you
choose 3, the third item on your frame would be the first item included in your sample; if you
choose 2, your sample would start with the second item on your frame.
4. Select every Kth (in this case, every fourth) item after that first number. For example, the
sample might consist of the following items to make up a sample of 100: 3 (the random start), 7,
11, 15, 19...395, 399 (up to N, which is 400 in this case).
Using the example above, you can see that with a systematic sample approach there are only four
possible samples that can be selected, corresponding to the four possible random starts:
1, 5, 9, 13... 393, 397
2, 6, 10, 14... 394, 398
3, 7, 11, 15... 395, 399
4, 8, 12, 16... 396, 400
Each member of the population belongs to only one of the four samples and each sample
has the same chance of being selected. From that, we can see that each item has a one in four
chance of being selected in the sample. This is the same probability as if a simple random
sampling of 100 items was selected. The main difference is that with simple random sampling,
any combination of 100 items would have a chance of making up the sample, while with
systematic sampling, there are only four possible samples. From that, we can see how precise
systematic sampling is compared with simple random sampling. The population's order on the
frame will determine the possible samples for systematic sampling. If the population is randomly
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distributed on the frame, then systematic sampling should yield results that are similar to simple
random sampling.
This method is often used in industry, where an item is selected for testing from a
production line to ensure that machines and equipment are of a standard quality. For example, a
tester in a manufacturing plant might perform a quality check on every 20th product in an
assembly line. The tester might choose a random start between the numbers 1 and 20. This will
determine the first product to be tested; every 20th product will be tested thereafter.
Example 2: Imagine you have to conduct a survey on base housing for your wing. Your wing has
an adult base housing population of 1,000 and you want to take a systematic sample of 200 adult
base residents. In order to do this, you must first determine what your sampling interval (K)
would be:
Total population (N) sample size (n) = sampling interval (K)
Nn=K
1,000 200 = K
5=K
To begin this systematic sample, all adult base residents would have to be assigned sequential
numbers. The starting point would be chosen by selecting a random number between 1 and 5. If
this number were 3, then the 3rd resident on the list would be selected along with every 5th
student thereafter. The sample of residents would be those corresponding to student numbers 3,
8, 13, 18, 23....
The advantages of systematic sampling are that the sample selection cannot be easier (you only
get one random numberthe random startand the rest of the sample automatically follows)
and that the sample is distributed evenly over the listed population. The biggest drawback of the
systematic sampling method is that if there is some cycle in the way the population is arranged
on a list and if that cycle coincides in some way with the sampling interval, the possible samples
may not be representative of the population.
Stratified sampling
Using stratified sampling, the population is divided into homogeneous, mutually
exclusive groups called strata, and then independent samples are selected from each stratum.
Any of the sampling methods mentioned in this lesson can be used to sample within each
stratum. The sampling method can vary from one stratum to another. When simple random
sampling is used to select the sample within each stratum, the sample design is called stratified
simple random sampling. A population can be stratified by any variable that is available for all
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items on the sampling frame prior to sampling (e.g., rank, age, sex, on base/off base,
Active/Guard/Reserve, income, etc.).
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A words of caution on the next technique you are about to read. This technique is
only estimating the probability of missing a potentially important perception, belief or attitude. It
is not estimating the percent of a target population who hold a particular perception, belief
or attitude. It will tell you that you have issues, but it will not tell you how widespread the
issues are. It will discover issues, but not measure the issues. Once you uncovered the set of
perceptions, beliefs or attitudes within an organization using this technique, you would then have
to perform additional data collection and analysis to determine how widespread or important the
individual issues are with the organization.
This alternative method to determine to the number of focus groups is to randomly select
30 members from each rank strata and then divide each rank strata into 3 focus groups of 10.
Based on the rank strata groups in example 3, you would create 15 focus groups of 10 people
(150 personnel total). Your focus groups would look like this:
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
Choosing 30 from each group means there is less than a 5% chance that you have missed an
attitude, perception, or belief with an incidence rate of 10% within the population. The logic
behind this approach and its applications are contained in the following article Sample Size for
Qualitative Research by Peter DePaulo in Attachment 1. Also, if you felt gender might play a
role in the issues identified, you would also need to create six additional focus groups (3 groups
of 10 men, and 3 groups of 10 women). The complete logic behind this approach and its
proper applications are contained in the following article Sample Size for Qualitative
Research by Peter DePaulo in Attachment 1. A sample size calculator based on this
approach is in Attachment 2.
******************************************************************************
Cluster sampling
Sometimes it is too expensive to spread a sample across the population as a whole. Travel
costs can become expensive if interviewers have to survey people from one end of the country to
the other. To reduce costs, statisticians may choose a cluster sampling technique.
Cluster sampling divides the population into groups or clusters. A number of clusters are
selected randomly to represent the total population, and then all items within selected clusters are
included in the sample. If clusters are large, a probabilitybased sample taken from a single
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cluster is all that is needed. No items from nonselected clusters are included in the samplethey
are represented by those from selected clusters. This differs from stratified sampling, where
some items are selected from each group.
Examples of clusters are squadrons (fighter, communication, comptroller, etc), groups
(operations, maintenance, medical, logistics) and geographic areas such as housing, flight line,
north base, south base etc. The selected clusters are used to represent the population.
Example 4: Suppose your wing commander wants to find out the general readiness of personal
mobility bags across the wing. It would be too costly and lengthy to inspect every personal
mobility bag in the wing. Instead, 10 squadrons are randomly selected from all over the wing.
These squadrons provide clusters of samples. Then every personal mobility bag in all 10 clusters
is inspected. In effect, the bags in these clusters represent all bags in the wing.
As mentioned, cost reduction is a reason for using cluster sampling. It creates 'pockets' of
sampled items instead of spreading the sample over the whole population. Another reason is that
sometimes a list of all items in the population (a requirement when conducting simple random
sample, systematic sample or sampling with probability proportional to size) is not available,
while a list of all clusters is either available or easy to create.
In most cases, the main drawback is a loss of efficiency when compared with simple
random sampling. It is usually better to survey a large number of small clusters instead of a small
number of large clusters. This is because neighboring items tend to be more alike, resulting in a
sample that does not represent the whole spectrum of opinions or situations present in the overall
population. In the previous examples, the readiness of personal mobility bags in the same
squadron or group may be similar due to leadership emphasis within that cluster, deployment
taskings, etc.
Another drawback to cluster sampling is that you do not have total control over the final
sample size. Since not all squadrons have the same number of people and you must inspect every
bag in your sample, the final sample size may be larger or smaller than you expected or needed.
Nonprobability Sampling
The difference between probability and nonprobability sampling has to do with a basic
assumption about the nature of the population under study. In probability sampling, every item
has a chance of being selected. In nonprobability sampling, there is an assumption that there is
an even distribution of characteristics within the population. This is what makes the
INSPECTOR believe that any sample would be representative and because of that, results will be
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accurate. For probability sampling, randomization is a feature of the selection process, rather
than an assumption about the structure of the population.
In nonprobability sampling, since elements are chosen arbitrarily, there is no way to
estimate the probability of any one element being included in the sample. Also, no assurance is
given that each item has a chance of being included, making it impossible either to estimate
sampling variability or to identify possible bias.
Reliability cannot be measured in nonprobability sampling; the only way to address data
quality is to compare some of the survey results with available information about the population.
Still, there is no assurance that the estimates will meet an acceptable level of error. Statisticians
are reluctant to use these methods because there is no way to measure the precision of the
resulting sample.
Despite these drawbacks, nonprobability sampling methods can be useful when
descriptive comments about the sample itself are desired. Secondly, they are quick, inexpensive
and convenient. There are also other circumstances, such as in applied social research, when it is
unfeasible or impractical to conduct probability sampling.
Most nonsampling methods require some effort and organization to complete, but others,
like convenience sampling, are done casually and do not need a formal plan of action. The most
common types are listed below:
purposive sampling
convenience or haphazard sampling
volunteer sampling
judgment sampling
quota sampling
Purposive sampling
Purposive sampling involves taking a sample with a specific purpose or objective in
mind. For example, under current fiscal constraints, IG organizations do not have the manpower
and money to inspect all programs and associated items. This requires them to select a sample of
programs for inspection that provides the greatest return on inspection investment dollar. Some
factors that will drive this purposive sampling approach will be:

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Based on these factors, the IG organization should strive to select a purposive sample with the
objective being to select a sample that contains only high risk programs where there are negative
indicators so that there is a maximum return on inspection dollars.
Convenience or haphazard sampling
Convenience sampling is sometimes referred to as haphazard or accidental sampling. It is
not normally representative of the target population because sample items are only selected if
they can be accessed easily and conveniently.
There are times when the average person uses convenience sampling. A food critic, for
example, may try several appetizers or entrees to judge the quality and variety of a menu. And
television reporters often seek socalled peopleonthestreet interviews' to find out how people
view an issue. In both these examples, the sample is chosen randomly, without use of a specific
sampling method.
The obvious advantage is that the method is easy to use, but that advantage is greatly
offset by the presence of bias. Although useful applications of the technique are limited, it can
deliver accurate results when the population is homogeneous.
For example, a scientist could use this method to determine whether a lake is polluted.
Assuming that the lake water is wellmixed, any sample would yield similar information. A
scientist could safely draw water anywhere on the lake without fretting about whether or not the
sample is representative.
Examples of convenience sampling include:
the first row of mobility bags sitting in the first row of a mobility warehouse
the first 100 military members to enter the mobility processing line
the first 50 customers to through the chow hall
the first 10 travel vouchers processed that day.
Volunteer sampling
As the term implies, this type of sampling occurs when people volunteer their services for
the study. In psychological experiments or pharmaceutical trials (drug testing), for example, it
would be difficult and unethical to enlist random participants from the general public. In these
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instances, the sample is taken from a group of volunteers. Sometimes, the INSPECTOR offers
payment to entice respondents. In exchange, the volunteers accept the possibility of a lengthy,
demanding or sometimes unpleasant process.
Sampling voluntary participants as opposed to the general population may introduce
strong biases. Often in opinion polling, only the people who care strongly enough about the
subject one way or another tend to respond. The silent majority does not typically respond,
resulting in large selection bias. Television and radio media often use callin polls to informally
query an audience on their views. Oftentimes, there is no limit imposed on the frequency or
number of calls one respondent can make. So, unfortunately, a person might be able to vote
repeatedly. It should also be noted that the people who contribute to these surveys might have
different views than those who do not.
Judgment Sampling
This approach is used when you want a quick sample and you believe you are able to
select a sufficiently representative sample for your purposes. You will use your own judgment to
select what seems like an appropriate sample.
This method is highly liable to bias and error as the INSPECTOR makes inexpert
judgment and selection. You probably have be experienced in research methods before you can
make a fair judgment about the right sample. Judgment sampling is often a lastresort method
that may be used when there is no time to do a proper study. In qualitative research, it is common
and can be appropriate as the INSPECTOR explores anthropological situations where the
discovery of meaning can benefit from an intuitive approach.
Quota sampling
This is one of the most common forms of nonprobability sampling. Sampling is done
until a specific number of items (quotas) for various subpopulations have been selected. Since
there are no rules as to how these quotas are to be filled, quota sampling is really a means for
satisfying sample size objectives for certain subpopulations.
The quotas may be based on population proportions. For example, if there are 100 men
and 100 women in a population and a sample of 20 are to be drawn to participate in a cola taste
challenge, you may want to divide the sample evenly between the sexes10 men and 10
women. Quota sampling can be considered preferable to other forms of nonprobability sampling
(e.g., judgment sampling) because it forces the inclusion of members of different subpopulations.
Quota sampling is somewhat similar to stratified sampling in that similar items are
grouped together. However, it differs in how the items are selected. In probability sampling, the
items are selected randomly while in quota sampling it is usually left up to the interviewer to
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decide who is sampled. This results in selection bias. Thus, quota sampling is often used by
market INSPECTORs (particularly for telephone surveys) instead of stratified sampling, because
it is relatively inexpensive and easy to administer and has the desirable property of satisfying
population proportions. However, it disguises potentially significant bias.
As with all other nonprobability sampling methods, in order to make inferences
about the population, it is necessary to assume that persons and/or things selected are
similar to those not selected. Such strong assumptions are rarely valid.
The main difference between stratified sampling and quota sampling is that stratified
sampling would select the students using a probability sampling method such as simple random
sampling or systematic sampling. In quota sampling, no such technique is used. The 15 students
might be selected by choosing the first 15 Grade 10 students to enter school on a certain day, or
by choosing 15 students from the first two rows of a particular classroom. Keep in mind that
those students who arrive late or sit at the back of the class may hold different opinions from
those who arrived earlier or sat in the front.
The main argument against quota sampling is that it does not meet the basic requirement
of randomness. Some items may have no chance of selection or the chance of selection may be
unknown. Therefore, the sample may be biased. Quota sampling is generally less expensive than
random sampling. It is also easy to administer, especially considering the tasks of listing the
whole population, randomly selecting the sample and followingup on nonrespondents can be
omitted from the procedure. Quota sampling is an effective sampling method when information
is urgently required and can be carried out independent of existing sampling frames. In many
cases where the population has no suitable frame, quota sampling may be the only appropriate
sampling method.
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Attachment 1
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words, our objective in designing qualitative research is to reduce the chances of discovery
failure, as opposed to reducing (quantitative) estimation error.
Discovery failure can be serious
What might go wrong if a qualitative project fails to uncover an actionable perception (or
attribute, opinion, need, experience, etc.)? Here are some possibilities:
In the qualitative testing of an advertisement, a copy point that offends a small but vocal
subgroup of the market is not discovered until a publicrelations fiasco erupts.
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the chance of missing the subgroup 10 times in a row (i.e., when drawing a sample of 10) is 0.9
to the tenth power, which is 0.35. Thus, there is a 35 percent chance that our sample of 10 would
have missed patients who experienced the staffer in a bad mood. Put another way, just over
one in three random samples of 10 will miss an experience or characteristic with an incidence of
10 percent.
This seems counterintuitively high, even to quant researchers to whom I have shown this
analysis. Perhaps people implicitly assume the fallacy that if something has an overall frequency
of one in N, then it is almost sure to appear in N chances.
Basing the decision on calculated probabilities
So, how can we figure the sample size needed to reduce the risk as much as we want? I am
proposing two ways. One would be based on calculated probabilities like those in the table
above, which was created by repeating the power calculations described above for various
incidences and sample sizes. The client and researcher would peruse the table and select a
sample size that is affordable yet reduces the risk of discover failure to a tolerable level.
For example, if the research team would want to discover a perception with an incidence as low
as 10 percent of the population, and if the team wanted to reduce the risk of missing that
subgroup to less than 5 percent, then a sample of N=30 would suffice, assuming random
selection. (To be exact, the risk shown in the table is .042, or 4.2 percent.) This is analogous to
having 95 percent confidence in being able to discover a perception with a 10 percent incidence.
Remember, however, that we are expressing the confidence in uncovering a qualitative insight as opposed to the usual quantitative notion of confidence in estimating a proportion or mean
plus or minus the measurement error.
If the team wants to be more conservative and reduce the risk of missing the onein10 subgroup
to less than 1 percent (i.e., 99 percent confidence), then a sample of nearly 50 would be needed.
This would reduce the risk to nearly 0.005 (see table).
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These studies were conducted within the context of quality function deployment, where,
according to the authors, 200400 customer needs are usually identified. It is not clear how the
results might generalize to other qualitative applications.
Nevertheless, if one were to base a samplesize decision on the Griffin and Hauser results, the
implication would be to conduct 2030 IDIs and to arrange for multiple analysts to look for
insights in the data. Perhaps backroom observers could, to some extent, serve as additional
analysts by taking notes while watching the groups or interviews. The observers notes might
contain some insights that the moderator overlooks, thus helping to minimize the chances of
missing something important.
N=30 as a starting point for planning
Neither the calculation of probabilities in the prior table nor the empirical rationale of Griffin and
Hauser is assured of being the last word on qualitative sample size. There might be other ways of
figuring the number of IDIs, groups, or ethnographic observations needed to avoid missing
something important.
Until the definitive answer is provided, perhaps an N of 30 respondents is a reasonable starting
point for deciding the qualitative sample size that can reveal the full range (or nearly the full
range) of potentially important customer perceptions. An N of 30 reduces the probability of
missing a perception with a 10 percentincidence to less than 5 percent (assuming random
sampling), and it is the upper end of the range found by Griffin and Hauser. If the budget is
limited, we might reduce the N below 30, but the client must understand the increased risks of
missing perceptions that may be worth knowing. If the stakes and budget are high enough, we
might go with a larger sample in order to ensure that smaller (or harder to reach) subgroups are
still likely to be represented.
If focus groups are desired, and we want to count each respondent separately toward the N we
choose (e.g., getting an N of 30 from three groups with 10 respondents in each), then it is
important for every respondent to have sufficient air time on the key issues. Using mini groups
instead of traditionalsize groups could help achieve this objective. Also, it is critical for the
moderator to control dominators and bring out the shy people, lest the distinctive perceptions of
lesstalkative customers are missed.
Across segments or within each one?
A complication arises when we are separately exploring different customer segments, such as
men versus women, different age groups, or consumers in different geographic regions. In the
case of gender and a desired N of 30, for example, do we need 30 in total (15 males plus 15
females) or do we really need to interview 60 people (30 males plus 30 females)? This is a
judgment call, which would depend on the researchers belief in the extent to which customer
perceptions may vary from segment to segment. Of course, it may also depend on budget. To
play it safe, each segment should have its own N large enough so that appreciable subgroups
within the segment are likely to be represented in the sample.
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Attachment 2
Sample Size Calculator
for
Probability of Missing a Subpopulation in a Focus Group
Number of Participants
10
20
30
40
50
60
5%
0.5987
0.3585
0.2146
0.1285
0.0769
0.0461
10%
0.3487
0.1216
0.0424
0.0148
0.0052
0.0018
15%
0.1969
0.0388
0.0076
0.0015
0.0003
0.0001
20%
0.1074
0.0115
0.0012
0.0001
0.0000
0.0000
Notes : Probabilities greater than 5% are indicated by gray text (excluded by "rule of
thumb" in that mis s ing a factor more than five times in 100 is undes irable). An
optimal outcome is indicated by red text; the probability of mis s ing a factor with a
10% incidence rate in the population is .0424 when 30 participants are randomly
s ampled from the population.
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