While understanding how and when convenience sampling is used may seem intimidating at first, gaining an understanding of when it is used can be helpful. There are numerous situations where researchers find this method practical, though how it is employed may vary from profession to profession.
In the Classroom
Often, students in psychology, sociology, and probability and statistics will be asked to circulate a survey. These students will most likely select a readily available group of people to research, but most of the time, these groups of people are not an accurate representation of the population. For example, if a college classroom surveys their peers, they will typically get responses from people between eighteen and twenty-five who all have similar life experiences. This method leaves out a large portion of the general populace, and only reflects the opinions and trends of people of that age group, but helps introduce the basic understanding of population sampling.
Research Driven Sampling
Convenience sampling is often used when statistical data gathered from a specific group of people is desired. For example, if a company wants to figure out what flavor of pizza sells the best in college students, they could poll an average local college and reliably say that that is an accurate representation of most college students. Their research would not be accurate for the entire population, but the company only wants to know what one group thinks. This method is most often used in research when budgeting is an issue, or when it is not timely to use another sampling technique.
Analyzing Growing Trends
This type of sampling can also be used to quickly and effectively analyze growing trends in certain groups of people. One way researchers could quickly find out what features most teenagers use on from their cellphones would be to go to a local mall and survey the teens they find. Or they could analyze what brand of medications doctors prefer to prescribe to people over sixty-five by visiting a doctorsí office and collecting data from willing patients that fit the profile. As trends can change very rapidly, it is important to get the data quickly, and probability sampling methods often take longer to organize and execute. With this method, researchers can easily gather their data and present it.
Another field this type of sampling is utilized is in biology. If a scientist needed to survey the water quality of a group of bodies of water, they could draw the water from anywhere and get an accurate representation of the sample. The same is true if researchers are analyzing a local pack of animals to see if any of them lack a certain trait. If one animal does not have what the researchers are looking for, it proves that the trait is not found homogenously throughout the entire population. Either of these examples shows effective use of this method of sampling.
Convenience sampling can be utilized effectively in a wide variety of situations, simply depending on what type of data the researcher wishes to collect. Only the researcher can decide whether this type of sampling is worthwhile to their data collection efforts.