Understanding the Basics of Convenience Sampling

Typically, scientists do not have the time or finances to select a completely randomized sampling, otherwise known as the collection of data from a subset of the population. Instead, they have to rely on a certain form of data collection called convenience sampling. This type of sampling has a few drawbacks, but still remains a popular way to gather statistical data for many different areas of study.

What is Convenience Sampling?

Convenience sampling refers to the non probability process by which a scientist gathers statistical data from the population. This form of selection is done based on the ease of gaining the statistical data. Rather than gathering a more accurate array of data from the population, the researcher simply gathers data from people nearby. A researcher might go to a nearby mall, or street corner to gather data. This form of data collection works for some areas of study, but researcher bias may result in inaccurate data.

When Is It Used?

It can be used in any field of research, including psychology, sociology, and political science, as well as in biological fields of study, when attempting to assess trends in human development or to gain a better understanding of changes in biology. Often times this type of sampling is used by researchers who wish to quickly show a trend and gain funding for a larger, more comprehensive sampling that reflects a more accurate range of data. It is also used for preliminary studies, as well as for research that doesn’t can be represented in a smaller portion of the population, such as averaging the frequency of certain eye colors.

The Importance of Convenience Sampling

Often, researchers are realistically unable to accurate receive a random sampling of the population. For example, businesses may not be able to give out information on their employees for a sociologist to study and select, but may allow them to come in and poll as many of their employees as possible. This method of sampling allows for the researcher to gather data even when facing obstacles. By analyzing the data, they can extrapolate trends and compensate for some of the lack in their data.

When Other Methods Are Utilized

While this method is the easiest for researchers, it has many flaws, and cannot be used when researchers need unbiased results. Often times, researchers use other methods of sampling, such as random or systematic sampling to gain a better understanding of common trends in the population. Convenience sampling is also not used when attempting to isolate particular groups from the data; for example, people with agoraphobia tend to not leave their homes, but a survey of people with mental disorders may need to include this subset of the population to be complete. In this case, it would be important to use a probability based selection method.

This form of sampling predates most methods other methods of data collection, as scientists previously had limited resources. Though it is not the most accurate methods, it is one of the most used forms of sampling. Without convenience sampling, many research projects would never be completed.