Interview Questions

Sampling Design

COMPLEX RANDOM SAMPLING DESIGNS

Probability sampling under restricted sampling techniques, as stated above, may result in complex random sampling designs. Such designs may as well be called ‘mixed sampling designs’ for many of such designs may represent a combination of probability and non-probability sampling procedures in selecting a sample. Some of the popular complex random sampling designs are as follows:

  1. Systematic sampling: In some instances, the most practical way of sampling is to select every ith item on a list. Sampling of this type is known as systematic sampling. An element of randomness is introduced into this kind of sampling by using random numbers to pick up the unit with which to start. For instance, if a 4 per cent sample is desired, the first item would be selected randomly from the first twenty-five and thereafter every 25th item would automatically be included in the sample. Thus, in systematic sampling only the first unit is selected randomly and the remaining units of the sample are selected at fixed intervals. Although a systematic sample is not a random sample in the strict sense of the term, but it is often considered reasonable to treat systematic sample as if it were a random sample.
    Systematic sampling has certain plus points. It can be taken as an improvement over a simple random sample in as much as the systematic sample is spread more evenly over the entire population. It is an easier and less costlier method of sampling and can be conveniently used even in case of large populations. But there are certain dangers too in using this type of sampling. If there is a hidden periodicity in the population, systematic sampling will prove to be an inefficient method of sampling. For instance, every 25th item produced by a certain production process is defective. If we are to select a 4% sample of the items of this process in a systematic manner, we would either get all defective items or all good items in our sample depending upon the random starting position. If all elements of the universe are ordered in a manner representative of the total population, i.e., the population list is in random order, systematic sampling is considered equivalent to random sampling. But if this is not so, then the results of such sampling may, at times, not be very reliable. In practice, systematic sampling is used when lists of population are available and they are of considerable length.
  2. Stratified sampling: If a population from which a sample is to be drawn does not constitute a homogeneous group, stratified sampling technique is generally applied in order to obtain a representative sample. Under stratified sampling the population is divided into several sub-populations that are individually more homogeneous than the total population (the different sub-populations are called ‘strata’) and then we select items from each stratum to constitute a sample. Since each stratum is more homogeneous than the total population, we are able to get more precise estimates for each stratum and by estimating more accurately each of the component parts, we get a better estimate of the whole. In brief, stratified sampling results in more reliable and detailed information.

The following three questions are highly relevant in the context of stratified sampling:

  • How to form strata?
  • How should items be selected from each stratum?
  • How many items be selected from each stratum or how to allocate the sample size of each stratum?

Regarding the first question, we can say that the strata be formed on the basis of common characteristic(s) of the items to be put in each stratum. This means that various strata be formed in such a way as to ensure elements being most homogeneous within each stratum and most heterogeneous between the different strata. Thus, strata are purposively formed and are usually based on past experience and personal judgement of the researcher. One should always remember that careful consideration of the relationship between the characteristics of the population and the characteristics to be estimated are normally used to define the strata. At times, pilot study may be conducted for determining a more appropriate and efficient stratification plan. We can do so by taking small samples of equal size from each of the proposed strata and then examining the variances within and among the possible stratifications, we can decide an appropriate stratification plan for our inquiry.

In respect of the second question, we can say that the usual method, for selection of items for the sample from each stratum, resorted to is that of simple random sampling. Systematic sampling can be used if it is considered more appropriate in certain situations.

Regarding the third question, we usually follow the method of proportional allocation under which the sizes of the samples from the different strata are kept proportional to the sizes of the strata. That is, if Pi represents the proportion of population included in stratum i, and n repres ents the total sample size, the number of elements selected from stratum i is n . Pi. To illustrate it, let us suppose that we want a sample of size n = 30 to be drawn from a population of size N = 8000 which is divided into three strata of size N1 = 4000, N2 = 2400 and N3 = 1600. Adopting proportional allocation, we shall get the sample sizes as under for the different strata:

For strata with N1 = 4000, we have P1 = 4000/8000
and hence n1 = n . P1 = 30 (4000/8000) = 15
Similarly, for strata with N2 = 2400, we have
n2 = n . P2 = 30 (2400/8000) = 9, and
for strata with N3 = 1600, we have
n3 = n . P3 = 30 (1600/8000) = 6.

Thus, using proportional allocation, the sample sizes for different strata are 15, 9 and 6 respectively which is in proportion to the sizes of the strata viz., 4000 : 2400 : 1600. Proportional allocation is considered most efficient and an optimal design when the cost of selecting an item is equal for each stratum, there is no difference in within-stratum variances, and the purpose of sampling happens to be to estimate the population value of some characteristic. But in case the purpose happens to be to compare the differences among the strata, then equal sample selection from each stratum would be more efficient even if the strata differ in sizes. In cases where strata differ not only in size but also in variability and it is considered reasonable to take larger samples from the more variable strata and smaller samples from the less variable strata, we can then account for both (differences in stratumsize and differences in stratum variability) by using disproportionate sampling design by requiring:

where s1, s2 , ... and sk denote the standard deviations of the k strata, N1, N2,…, Nk denote the sizes of the k strata and n1, n2,…, nk denote the sample sizes of k strata. This is called ‘optimum allocation’ in the context of disproportionate sampling. The allocation in such a situation results in the following formula for determining the sample sizes different strata:


We may illustrate the use of this by an example.

Illustration 
A population is divided into three strata so that N1 = 5000, N2 = 2000 and N3 = 3000. Respective standard deviations are:


How should a sample of size n = 84 be allocated to the three strata, if we want optimum allocation using disproportionate sampling design?
Solution: Using the disproportionate sampling design for optimum allocation, the sample sizes for different strata will be determined as under:
Sample size for strata with N1 = 5000


where
C1 = Cost of sampling in stratum 1
C2 = Cost of sampling in stratum 2
Ck = Cost of sampling in stratum k
and all other terms remain the same as explained earlier. The allocation in such a situation results in the following formula for determining the sample sizes for different strata:

It is not necessary that stratification be done keeping in view a single characteristic. Populations are often stratified according to several characteristics. For example, a system-wide survey designed to determine the attitude of students toward a new teaching plan, a state college system with 20 colleges might stratify the students with respect to class, sec and college. Stratification of this type is known as cross-stratification, and up to a point such stratification increases the reliability of estimates and is much used in opinion surveys.

From what has been stated above in respect of stratified sampling, we can say that the sample so constituted is the result of successive application of purposive (involved in stratification of items) and random sampling methods. As such it is an example of mixed sampling. The procedure wherein we first have stratification and then simple random sampling is known as stratified random sampling.

Cluster sampling: If the total area of interest happens to be a big one, a convenient way in which a sample can be taken is to divide the area into a number of smaller non-overlapping areas and then to randomly select a number of these smaller areas (usually called clusters), with the ultimate sample consisting of all (or samples of) units in these small areas or clusters.

Thus in cluster sampling the total population is divided into a number of relatively small subdivisions which are themselves clusters of still smaller units and then some of these clusters are randomly selected for inclusion in the overall sample. Suppose we want to estimate the proportion of machineparts in an inventory which are defective. Also assume that there are 20000 machine parts in the inventory at a given point of time, stored in 400 cases of 50 each. Now using a cluster sampling, we would consider the 400 cases as clusters and randomly select ‘n’ cases and examine all the machineparts in each randomly selected case.

Cluster sampling, no doubt, reduces cost by concentrating surveys in selected clusters. But certainly it is less precise than random sampling. There is also not as much information in ‘n’ observations within a cluster as there happens to be in ‘n’ randomly drawn observations. Cluster sampling is used only because of the economic advantage it possesses; estimates based on cluster samples are usually more reliable per unit cost.

Area sampling: If clusters happen to be some geographic subdivisions, in that case cluster sampling is better known as area sampling. In other words, cluster designs, where the primary sampling unit represents a cluster of units based on geographic area, are distinguished as area sampling. The plus and minus points of cluster sampling are also applicable to area sampling.

Multi-stage sampling: Multi-stage sampling is a further development of the principle of cluster sampling. Suppose we want to investigate the working efficiency of nationalised banks in India and we want to take a sample of few banks for this purpose. The first stage is to select large primary sampling unit such as states in a country. Then we may select certain districts and interview all banks in the chosen districts. This would represent a two-stage sampling design with the ultimate sampling units being clusters of districts.

If instead of taking a census of all banks within the selected districts, we select certain towns and interview all banks in the chosen towns. This would represent a three-stage sampling design. If instead of taking a census of all banks within the selected towns, we randomly sample banks from each selected town, then it is a case of using a four-stage sampling plan. If we select randomly at all stages, we will have what is known as ‘multi-stage random sampling design’.

Ordinarily multi-stage sampling is applied in big inquires extending to a considerable large geographical area, say, the entire country. There are two advantages of this sampling design viz.,

  1. It is easier to administer than most single stage designs mainly because of the fact that sampling frame under multi-stage sampling is developed in partial units.
  2. A large number of units can be sampled for a given cost under multistage sampling because of sequential clustering, whereas this is not possible in most of the simple designs.

Sampling with probability proportional to size: In case the cluster sampling units do not have the same number or approximately the same number of elements, it is considered appropriate to use a random selection process where the probability of each cluster being included in the sample is proportional to the size of the cluster. For this purpose, we have to list the number of elements in each cluster irrespective of the method of ordering the cluster. Then we must sample systematically the appropriate number of elements from the cumulative totals. The actual numbers selected in this way do not refer to individual elements, but indicate which clusters and how many from the cluster are to be selected by simple random sampling or by systematic sampling. The results of this type of sampling are equivalent to those of a simple random sample and the method is less cumbersome and is also relatively less expensive. We can illustrate this with the help of an example.

Illustration 
The following are the number of departmental stores in 15 cities: 35, 17, 10, 32, 70, 28, 26, 19, 26, 66, 37, 44, 33, 29 and 28. If we want to select a sample of 10 stores, using cities as clusters and selecting within clusters proportional to size, how many stores from each city should be chosen? (Use a starting point of 10).

Solution: Let us put the information as under (Table):
Since in the given problem, we have 500 departmental stores from which we have to select a sample of 10 stores, the appropriate sampling interval is 50. As we have to use the starting point of 10*, so we add successively increments of 50 till 10 numbers have been selected. The numbers, thus, obtained are: 10, 60, 110, 160, 210, 260, 310, 360, 410 and 460 which have been shown in the last column of the table (Table 4.1) against the concerning cumulative totals. From this we can say that two stores should be selected randomly from city number five and one each from city number 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 14. This sample of 10 stores is the sample with probability proportional to size.

Sequential sampling: This sampling design is some what complex sample design. The ultimate size of the sample under this technique is not fixed in advance, but is determined according to mathematical decision rules on the basis of information yielded as survey progresses. This is usually adopted in case of acceptance sampling plan in context of statistical quality control. When a particular lot is to be accepted or rejected on the basis of a single sample, it is known as single sampling; when the decision is to be taken on the basis of two samples, it is known as double sampling and in case the decision rests on the basis of more than two samples but the number of samples is certain and decided in advance, the sampling is known as multiple sampling. But when the number of samples is more than two but it is neither certain nor decided in advance, this type of system is often referred to as sequential sampling. Thus, in brief, we can say that in sequential sampling, one can go on taking samples one after another as long as one desires to do so.


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