Systematic Sampling

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What is 'Systematic Sampling'

Systematic sampling is a type of probability sampling method in which sample members from a larger population are selected according to a random starting point and a fixed, periodic interval. This interval, called the sampling interval, is calculated by dividing the population size by the desired sample size. Despite the sample population being selected in advance, systematic sampling is still thought of as being random, provided the periodic interval is determined beforehand and the starting point is random.

BREAKING DOWN 'Systematic Sampling'

Because simply random sampling can be inefficient and time-consuming, statisticians turn to other methods, such as systematic sampling. Choosing a sample size through a systematic approach can be done quickly. For example, if you wanted to select a random group of 1,000 people from a population of 50,000 using systematic sampling, you would simply select every 50th person, since 50,000/1,000 = 50.

One risk that statisticians must take into account when conducting systematic sampling involves how the list used with the sampling interval is organized. If the population placed on the list is organized in a cyclical pattern that matches the sampling interval, the selected sample may be biased. For example, a company’s human resources department wants to pick a sample of employees and ask how they feel about company policies. Employees are grouped in teams of 20, with each team headed by a manager. If the list used to pick the sample size is organized with teams clustered together, the statistician risks picking only managers (or no managers at all) depending on the sampling interval.

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