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Home arrow Environment arrow Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches
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SIMPLE RANDOM SAMPLES

To get a simple random sample of 200 out of 640 people in a village, you number each individual from 1 to 640 and then take a random grab of 200 out of the numbers from 1 to 640. Most packages for statistical analysis have built in random-number generators (Internet addresses for several programs are given in appendix E), and you can create random samples by using one of the random-number generators on the Internet—like the one at http://www.randomizer.org/form.htm.

When you have your list of random numbers, then whoever goes with each one is in the sample. Period. If there are 1,230 people in the population and your list of random numbers says that you have to interview person #212, then do it. No fair leaving out some people because they are members of the elite and probably wouldn’t want to give you the time of day. No fair leaving out people you don’t like or don’t want to work with. None of that.

In the real world of research, of course, random samples are tampered with all the time. (And no snickering here about the “real world’’ of research. Social research—in universities, in marketing firms, in polling firms, in the military—is a multibillion-dollar- a-year industry in the United States alone—and that’s real enough for most people.) A common form of meddling with samples is when door-to-door interviewers find a sample selectee not at home and go to the nearest house for a replacement. This can have dramatically bad results.

Suppose you go out to interview between 10 a.m. and 4 p.M. People who are home during these hours tend to be old, or sick, or mothers with small children. Those same people are home in the evening, too, but now they’re joined by all the single people home from work, so the average family size goes down.

Telephone survey researchers call back from three to 10 times before replacing a member of a sample. When survey researchers suspect (from prior work) that, say, 25% of a sample won’t be reachable, even after call-backs, they increase their original sample size by 25% so the final sample will be both the right size and representative.

 
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