Samples are used in much of the research conducted in both the social and natural/physical sciences. Even in the fields of history, music, and English, samples are often used in empirical investigations. Because the quality of the sample(s) used in a study has such an important bearing on the trustworthiness of a researcher’s conclusions, here the following six critical aspects are considered:

  • The definition of sample
  • Why researchers use samples
  • How sample data are used
  • What kinds of samples researchers use
  • Why the concept of “sampling error” is important
  • The misconceptions people have about samples

Definition and Examples

A sample is a subset of a population. The population can be a set of people, animals, or things. For example, the population might be made up of all children who, on a given ...

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