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Sampling Frames

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Sampling Frames

After identifying the target population of your research, you need to draw an appropriate sample. But how do you know who exactly can be in a sample? This is why you need to understand what your sampling frame is - it helps you collect information about everyone in the target population. The following text describes sampling frames and their use in research.

Sampling Frames in Research, diverse sampling frame, StudySmarter

A group of diverse people, freepik.com/pch.vector

Importance of Sampling Frames in Research

Sampling is a vital part of the research; it refers to selecting a group of participants from a larger population of interest. If we want to generalise the research findings to a specific population, our sample must be representative of that population.

Choosing the right sampling frame is an important step in ensuring that.

Representative vs unrepresentative samples

Suppose the population of interest is the population of the United Kingdom. In that case, the sample should reflect the characteristics of this population. A sample consisting of 80 percent white male college students from England doesn't reflect the characteristics of the entire UK population. Therefore it is not representative.

Sampling Frame: Definition

After identifying a target population, you can use a sample frame to draw a representative sample for your research.

A sampling frame refers to a list or a source that includes every individual from your entire population of interest and should exclude anyone that is not part of the target population. Sample frames should be systematically organised, so all the sampling units and information can be easily found.

If you are investigating the consumption of energy drinks by student-athletes in your school, your population of interest is all student-athletes at that school. Therefore, your sampling frame should include names, maybe some characteristics, and contact information for every student-athlete who attends your school. No student-athlete should be omitted in the sampling frame, and no non-athletes should be included.

Having a list like this allows you to draw a sample for your study using a sampling method of your choice.

Sampling Frames in Research, sampling frame used to draw the samples for research, StudySmarterSampling frames in research, Alicja Blaszkiewicz, StudySmarter Originals

Types of Sampling Frames

One type of sampling frame we already talked about is lists. We can create lists of schools, households or employees in a company. Another type of sampling frame is area frames, which include land units (e.g. cities or villages) from which you can draw samples. Area frames can have a form of a satellite image or a list of different areas.

Examples of Sampling Frames in Research

Let's consider how area frames and list frames can be used in research.

Suppose your target population is everyone living in London. In that case, you might use census data, telephone directory or data from an electoral register to select a subset of people for your research.

You can also use satellite images to identify households in different areas of London that can serve as your sample frame; this way, your sampling frame can perhaps more accurately account for people living in London even if they are not registered to vote, are not on the telephone directory, or recently moved in.

Satellite Image Earth Sampling Frame StudySmarter

Earth observation through satellites, freepik.com/vectorjuice

Sampling Frame vs Sampling

A sampling frame is the database of everyone in your target population. It's likely that your population is large, and maybe you can't afford to include everyone in your research. Then, you can use the sampling process to select a smaller group from the population. This is the group from which you collect data.

An example sampling method is random sampling. If your sampling frame includes 1200 individuals, you can randomly select (e.g. by using a random number generator) 100 people on that list to contact and ask to take part in your research.

Challenges of Using Sampling Frames in Research

Several problems can appear when using sample frames.

  • First of all, when the target population is large, not everyone who should be included will be included in sample frames.

Not everyone is on the telephone directory or the electoral register. Similarly, not everyone whose data is on these databases still lives where they might be registered.

  • Area sampling might also result in inaccurate data as it doesn't provide much data on sample units. This can affect the efficiency of sampling.

The number of housing units in town frequently visited by tourists might not reflect the number of households living there all year round.

  • Additional problems can arise if a sampling unit (e.g. one person) appears twice in the sampling frame.

If someone is registered to vote in two different cities, they will be included twice in a sampling frame consisting of voters.

  • Many people who are part of the sampling frame might also refuse to participate in the research, which can be of concern for sampling if the people who agree and refuse to participate in research differ significantly.

Sampling Frames in Research - Key Takeaways

  • Sampling frame refers to a list or a source that includes every individual from your entire population of interest and should exclude anyone not part of the population of interest. Sample frames should be systematically organised, so all the sampling units and information can be easily found.
  • Sampling frames are used to draw the samples for research. Having a list of everyone in your target population allows you to draw a sample for your study using a sampling method.
  • Types of sampling frames include frame lists and area frames.
  • Challenges of using sampling frames include implications of using incomplete sampling frames, sampling frames that include people outside of the population of interest or a repeated inclusion of sampling units. Moreover, sampling frames that do not include sufficient information about the sampling units might result in inefficient sampling.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sampling Frames

A sampling frame is a source (e.g. a list) that includes all sampling units - all members of your target population. If your target population is the population of the UK, data from a census can be an example sampling frame.

Sampling frames are used to draw the samples for research. Having a list of everyone in your target population allows you to draw a sample for your study using a sampling method. 

  • Sampling frames might be incomplete and not include everyone in the population of interest. 
  • Sometimes, sampling frames include people outside the population of interest or list one sampling unit several times.
  • Sampling frames that do not include sufficient information about the sampling units might result in inefficient sampling.

Types of sampling frames include frame lists and area frames.

The purpose of a sampling frame is to collect and organise all sampling units that you can draw a sample from.

Final Sampling Frames Quiz

Question

What is the purpose of using sampling frames?

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Answer

The purpose of a sampling frame is to collect and organise all sampling units that the target population consists of and that you can draw a sample from. 

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Question

What is a sampling unit?

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Answer

A sampling unit refers to an individual that is included in the sampling frame.

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Question

What is a sampling frame?

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Answer

A sampling frame is a source (e.g. list) that includes all sampling units so all members of your target population. 

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Question

What are the characteristics of a good sampling frame?

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Answer

  • A sample frame should be systematically organised, so all the sampling units and information about them can be easily found.
  • A sampling frame should include all sampling units of your target population and exclude any units that are not part of the target population.
  • A sampling unit shouldn't be repeated more than once in a sampling frame.
  • Including some characteristics, and contact information with sampling units can make sampling more efficient. 

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Question

What is an example of a sampling frame when your target population is the population of the UK?

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Answer

For example, the data from a recent census, electoral register or telephone directory.

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Question

What is an example of a sampling frame when the target population is students at a school?

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Answer

The sampling frame would be a list of all students attending the school.

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Question

What are the challenges of using sampling frames in research?


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Answer

  • Sampling frames might be incomplete, not include everyone in the population of interest. 
  • It's also a problem if they include people that are outside of the population of interest or a sampling unit is included repeatedly in the sampling frame. 
  • Sampling frames that do not include sufficient information about the sampling units might result in inefficient sampling.

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Question

Some people that are part of the sampling frame might refuse to take part in the research. When is it a problem for a study?

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Answer

If the people that agree and refuse to take part in research differ in a significant way and it affects the representativeness of the sample.

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Question

How are sampling frames used in research?

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Answer

Sampling frames are used to draw the samples for research. Having a list of everyone in your target population allows you to draw a sample for your study using a sampling method of your choice.

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Question

What are the types of sampling frames?


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Answer

Types of sampling frames include frame lists and area frames.

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Question

What are list frames?

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Answer

Frame lists are sampling frames that list every single sampling unit, for example, every single individual in the target population.

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What are area frames?

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Answer

Area frames include land units (e.g. cities or villages) which you can draw samples from, area frames can have a form of e.g. a satellite image or a list of different areas. 

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Question

What is the difference between a sampling frame and the sampling process?

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Answer

A sampling frame is the database of everyone in your target population. The sampling process can be used to select a sample so a smaller group from the population that you can collect data from. 

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Question

What problems are associated with using a telephone directory as a sample frame for a population of a certain region?

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Answer

Not everyone in the population is on the electoral register. Similarly, not everyone whose data is on the telephone registry still lives in the place they might be registered in.

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Question

What is a target population?

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Answer

A target population is a group of people you generalise research findings to.

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