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judgement (or Purposive) Sampling

 Judgement (or Purposive) Sampling

Also known as selective, or subjective, sampling, this technique relies on the judgement of the researcher when choosing who to ask to participate. Researchers may implicitly thus choose a “representative” sample to suit their needs, or specifically approach individuals with certain characteristics. This approach is often used by the media when canvassing the public for opinions and in qualitative research.

Judgement sampling has the advantage of being time-and cost-effective to perform whilst resulting in a range of responses (particularly useful in qualitative research). However, in addition to volunteer bias, it is also prone to errors of judgement by the researcher and the findings, whilst being potentially broad, will not necessarily be representative.

4. Snowball sampling

This method is commonly used in social sciences when investigating hard-to-reach groups. Existing subjects are asked to nominate further subjects known to them, so the sample increases in size like a rolling snowball. For example, when carrying out a survey of risk behaviours amongst intravenous drug users, participants may be asked to nominate other users to be interviewed.

Snowball sampling can be effective when a sampling frame is difficult to identify. However, by selecting friends and acquaintances of subjects already investigated, there is a significant risk of selection bias (choosing a large number of people with similar characteristics or views to the initial individual identified).

Bias in sampling

There are five important potential sources of bias that should be considered when selecting a sample, irrespective of the method used. Sampling bias may be introduced when:1

  1. Any pre-agreed sampling rules are deviated from
  2. People in hard-to-reach groups are omitted
  3. Selected individuals are replaced with others, for example if they are difficult to contact
  4. There are low response rates
  5. An out-of-date list is used as the sample frame (for example, if it excludes people who have recently moved to an area)