Sampling and Data

3 Data, Sampling, and Variation in Data and Sampling

Data may come from a population or from a sample. Lowercase letters like x or y generally are used to represent data values. Most data can be put into the following categories:

  • Qualitative
  • Quantitative

Qualitative data are the result of categorizing or describing attributes of a population. Qualitative data are also often called categorical data. Hair color, blood type, ethnic group, the car a person drives, and the street a person lives on are examples of qualitative(categorical) data. Qualitative(categorical) data are generally described by words or letters. For instance, hair color might be black, dark brown, light brown, blonde, gray, or red. Blood type might be AB+, O-, or B+. Researchers often prefer to use quantitative data over qualitative(categorical) data because it lends itself more easily to mathematical analysis. For example, it does not make sense to find an average hair color or blood type.

Quantitative data are always numbers. Quantitative data are the result of counting or measuring attributes of a population. Amount of money, pulse rate, weight, number of people living in your town, and number of students who take statistics are examples of quantitative data. Quantitative data may be either discrete or continuous.

All data that are the result of counting are called quantitative discrete data. These data take on only certain numerical values. If you count the number of phone calls you receive for each day of the week, you might get values such as zero, one, two, or three.

Data that are not only made up of counting numbers, but that may include fractions, decimals, or irrational numbers, are called quantitative continuous data. Continuous data are often the results of measurements like lengths, weights, or times. A list of the lengths in minutes for all the phone calls that you make in a week, with numbers like 2.4, 7.5, or 11.0, would be quantitative continuous data.

Data Sample of Quantitative Discrete Data

The data are the number of books students carry in their backpacks. You sample five students. Two students carry three books, one student carries four books, one student carries two books, and one student carries one book. The numbers of books (three, four, two, and one) are the quantitative discrete data.

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The data are the number of machines in a gym. You sample five gyms. One gym has 12 machines, one gym has 15 machines, one gym has ten machines, one gym has 22 machines, and the other gym has 20 machines. What type of data is this?

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quantitative discrete data

Data Sample of Quantitative Continuous Data

The data are the weights of backpacks with books in them. You sample the same five students. The weights (in pounds) of their backpacks are 6.2, 7, 6.8, 9.1, 4.3. Notice that backpacks carrying three books can have different weights. Weights are quantitative continuous data.

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The data are the areas of lawns in square feet. You sample five houses. The areas of the lawns are 144 sq. feet, 160 sq. feet, 190 sq. feet, 180 sq. feet, and 210 sq. feet. What type of data is this?

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quantitative continuous data

You go to the supermarket and purchase three cans of soup (19 ounces) tomato bisque, 14.1 ounces lentil, and 19 ounces Italian wedding), two packages of nuts (walnuts and peanuts), four different kinds of vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and carrots), and two desserts (16 ounces pistachio ice cream and 32 ounces chocolate chip cookies).

Name data sets that are quantitative discrete, quantitative continuous, and qualitative(categorical).

One Possible Solution:

  • The three cans of soup, two packages of nuts, four kinds of vegetables and two desserts are quantitative discrete data because you count them.
  • The weights of the soups (19 ounces, 14.1 ounces, 19 ounces) are quantitative continuous data because you measure weights as precisely as possible.
  • Types of soups, nuts, vegetables and desserts are qualitative(categorical) data because they are categorical.

Try to identify additional data sets in this example.

The data are the colors of backpacks. Again, you sample the same five students. One student has a red backpack, two students have black backpacks, one student has a green backpack, and one student has a gray backpack. The colors red, black, black, green, and gray are qualitative(categorical) data.

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The data are the colors of houses. You sample five houses. The colors of the houses are white, yellow, white, red, and white. What type of data is this?

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qualitative(categorical) data


You may collect data as numbers and report it categorically. For example, the quiz scores for each student are recorded throughout the term. At the end of the term, the quiz scores are reported as A, B, C, D, or F.

Work collaboratively to determine the correct data type (quantitative or qualitative). Indicate whether quantitative data are continuous or discrete. Hint: Data that are discrete often start with the words “the number of.”

  1. the number of pairs of shoes you own
  2. the type of car you drive
  3. the distance from your home to the nearest grocery store
  4. the number of classes you take per school year
  5. the type of calculator you use
  6. weights of sumo wrestlers
  7. number of correct answers on a quiz
  8. IQ scores (This may cause some discussion.)

Items a, d, and g are quantitative discrete; items c, f, and h are quantitative continuous; items b and e are qualitative, or categorical.

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Determine the correct data type (quantitative or qualitative) for the number of cars in a parking lot. Indicate whether quantitative data are continuous or discrete.

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quantitative discrete

A statistics professor collects information about the classification of her students as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors. The data she collects are summarized in the pie chart (Figure). What type of data does this graph show?

This is a pie chart showing the class classification of statistics students. The chart has 4 sections labeled Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior. A question is asked below the pie chart: what type of data does this graph show?

This pie chart shows the students in each year, which is qualitative (or categorical) data.

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The registrar at State University keeps records of the number of credit hours students complete each semester. The data he collects are summarized in the histogram. The class boundaries are 10 to less than 13, 13 to less than 16, 16 to less than 19, 19 to less than 22, and 22 to less than 25.

This histogram consists of 5 bars with the x-axis marked at intervals of 3 from 10 - 25, and the y-axis in increments of 100 from 0 - 800. The height of bars shows the number of students in each interval.

What type of data does this graph show?

Try It Solutions

A histogram is used to display quantitative data: the numbers of credit hours completed. Because students can complete only a whole number of hours (no fractions of hours allowed), this data is quantitative discrete.

Qualitative Data Discussion

Below are tables comparing the number of part-time and full-time students at De Anza College and Foothill College enrolled for the spring 2010 quarter. The tables display counts (frequencies) and percentages or proportions (relative frequencies). The percent columns make comparing the same categories in the colleges easier. Displaying percentages along with the numbers is often helpful, but it is particularly important when comparing sets of data that do not have the same totals, such as the total enrollments for both colleges in this example. Notice how much larger the percentage for part-time students at Foothill College is compared to De Anza College.

Fall Term 2007 (Census day)
De Anza College Foothill College
Number Percent Number Percent
Full-time 9,200 40.9% Full-time 4,059 28.6%
Part-time 13,296 59.1% Part-time 10,124 71.4%
Total 22,496 100% Total 14,183 100%

Tables are a good way of organizing and displaying data. But graphs can be even more helpful in understanding the data. There are no strict rules concerning which graphs to use. Two graphs that are used to display qualitative(categorical) data are pie charts and bar graphs.

In a pie chart, categories of data are represented by wedges in a circle and are proportional in size to the percent of individuals in each category.

In a bar graph, the length of the bar for each category is proportional to the number or percent of individuals in each category. Bars may be vertical or horizontal.

A Pareto chart consists of bars that are sorted into order by category size (largest to smallest).

Look at (Figure) and (Figure) and determine which graph (pie or bar) you think displays the comparisons better.

It is a good idea to look at a variety of graphs to see which is the most helpful in displaying the data. We might make different choices of what we think is the “best” graph depending on the data and the context. Our choice also depends on what we are using the data for.

Percentages That Add to More (or Less) Than 100%

Sometimes percentages add up to be more than 100% (or less than 100%). In the graph, the percentages add to more than 100% because students can be in more than one category. A bar graph is appropriate to compare the relative size of the categories. A pie chart cannot be used. It also could not be used if the percentages added to less than 100%.

De Anza College Spring 2010
Characteristic/category Percent
Full-time students 40.9%
Students who intend to transfer to a 4-year educational institution 48.6%
Students under age 25 61.0%
TOTAL 150.5%

Omitting Categories/Missing Data

The table displays Ethnicity of Students but is missing the “Other/Unknown” category. This category contains people who did not feel they fit into any of the ethnicity categories or declined to respond. Notice that the frequencies do not add up to the total number of students. In this situation, create a bar graph and not a pie chart.

Ethnicity of Students at De Anza College Fall Term 2007 (Census Day)
Frequency Percent
Asian 8,794 36.1%
Black 1,412 5.8%
Filipino 1,298 5.3%
Hispanic 4,180 17.1%
Native American 146 0.6%
Pacific Islander 236 1.0%
White 5,978 24.5%
TOTAL 22,044 out of 24,382 90.4% out of 100%

The following graph is the same as the previous graph but the “Other/Unknown” percent (9.6%) has been included. The “Other/Unknown” category is large compared to some of the other categories (Native American, 0.6%, Pacific Islander 1.0%). This is important to know when we think about what the data are telling us.

This particular bar graph in (Figure) can be difficult to understand visually. The graph in (Figure) is a Pareto chart. The Pareto chart has the bars sorted from largest to smallest and is easier to read and interpret.

Bar Graph with Other/Unknown Category

Pareto Chart With Bars Sorted by Size

Pie Charts: No Missing Data

The following pie charts have the “Other/Unknown” category included (since the percentages must add to 100%). The chart in (Figure) is organized by the size of each wedge, which makes it a more visually informative graph than the unsorted, alphabetical graph in (Figure).


Gathering information about an entire population often costs too much or is virtually impossible. Instead, we use a sample of the population. A sample should have the same characteristics as the population it is representing. Most statisticians use various methods of random sampling in an attempt to achieve this goal. This section will describe a few of the most common methods. There are several different methods of random sampling. In each form of random sampling, each member of a population initially has an equal chance of being selected for the sample. Each method has pros and cons. The easiest method to describe is called a simple random sample. Any group of n individuals is equally likely to be chosen as any other group of n individuals if the simple random sampling technique is used. In other words, each sample of the same size has an equal chance of being selected.

Besides simple random sampling, there are other forms of sampling that involve a chance process for getting the sample. Other well-known random sampling methods are the stratified sample, the cluster sample, and the systematic sample.

To choose a stratified sample, divide the population into groups called strata and then take a proportionate number from each stratum. For example, you could stratify (group) your college population by department and then choose a proportionate simple random sample from each stratum (each department) to get a stratified random sample. To choose a simple random sample from each department, number each member of the first department, number each member of the second department, and do the same for the remaining departments. Then use simple random sampling to choose proportionate numbers from the first department and do the same for each of the remaining departments. Those numbers picked from the first department, picked from the second department, and so on represent the members who make up the stratified sample.

To choose a cluster sample, divide the population into clusters (groups) and then randomly select some of the clusters. All the members from these clusters are in the cluster sample. For example, if you randomly sample four departments from your college population, the four departments make up the cluster sample. Divide your college faculty by department. The departments are the clusters. Number each department, and then choose four different numbers using simple random sampling. All members of the four departments with those numbers are the cluster sample.

To choose a systematic sample, randomly select a starting point and take every nth piece of data from a listing of the population. For example, suppose you have to do a phone survey. Your phone book contains 20,000 residence listings. You must choose 400 names for the sample. Number the population 1–20,000 and then use a simple random sample to pick a number that represents the first name in the sample. Then choose every fiftieth name thereafter until you have a total of 400 names (you might have to go back to the beginning of your phone list). Systematic sampling is frequently chosen because it is a simple method.

A type of sampling that is non-random is convenience sampling. Convenience sampling involves using results that are readily available. For example, a computer software store conducts a marketing study by interviewing potential customers who happen to be in the store browsing through the available software. The results of convenience sampling may be very good in some cases and highly biased (favor certain outcomes) in others.

Sampling data should be done very carefully. Collecting data carelessly can have devastating results. Surveys mailed to households and then returned may be very biased (they may favor a certain group). It is better for the person conducting the survey to select the sample respondents.

True random sampling is done with replacement. That is, once a member is picked, that member goes back into the population and thus may be chosen more than once. However for practical reasons, in most populations, simple random sampling is done without replacement. Surveys are typically done without replacement. That is, a member of the population may be chosen only once. Most samples are taken from large populations and the sample tends to be small in comparison to the population. Since this is the case, sampling without replacement is approximately the same as sampling with replacement because the chance of picking the same individual more than once with replacement is very low.

In a college population of 10,000 people, suppose you want to pick a sample of 1,000 randomly for a survey. For any particular sample of 1,000, if you are sampling with replacement,

  • the chance of picking the first person is 1,000 out of 10,000 (0.1000);
  • the chance of picking a different second person for this sample is 999 out of 10,000 (0.0999);
  • the chance of picking the same person again is 1 out of 10,000 (very low).

If you are sampling without replacement,

  • the chance of picking the first person for any particular sample is 1000 out of 10,000 (0.1000);
  • the chance of picking a different second person is 999 out of 9,999 (0.0999);
  • you do not replace the first person before picking the next person.

Compare the fractions 999/10,000 and 999/9,999. For accuracy, carry the decimal answers to four decimal places. To four decimal places, these numbers are equivalent (0.0999).

Sampling without replacement instead of sampling with replacement becomes a mathematical issue only when the population is small. For example, if the population is 25 people, the sample is ten, and you are sampling with replacement for any particular sample, then the chance of picking the first person is ten out of 25, and the chance of picking a different second person is nine out of 25 (you replace the first person).

If you sample without replacement, then the chance of picking the first person is ten out of 25, and then the chance of picking the second person (who is different) is nine out of 24 (you do not replace the first person).

Compare the fractions 9/25 and 9/24. To four decimal places, 9/25 = 0.3600 and 9/24 = 0.3750. To four decimal places, these numbers are not equivalent.

When you analyze data, it is important to be aware of sampling errors and nonsampling errors. The actual process of sampling causes sampling errors. For example, the sample may not be large enough. Factors not related to the sampling process cause nonsampling errors. A defective counting device can cause a nonsampling error.

In reality, a sample will never be exactly representative of the population so there will always be some sampling error. As a rule, the larger the sample, the smaller the sampling error.

In statistics, a sampling bias is created when a sample is collected from a population and some members of the population are not as likely to be chosen as others (remember, each member of the population should have an equally likely chance of being chosen). When a sampling bias happens, there can be incorrect conclusions drawn about the population that is being studied.

Critical Evaluation

We need to evaluate the statistical studies we read about critically and analyze them before accepting the results of the studies. Common problems to be aware of include

  • Problems with samples: A sample must be representative of the population. A sample that is not representative of the population is biased. Biased samples that are not representative of the population give results that are inaccurate and not valid.
  • Self-selected samples: Responses only by people who choose to respond, such as call-in surveys, are often unreliable.
  • Sample size issues: Samples that are too small may be unreliable. Larger samples are better, if possible. In some situations, having small samples is unavoidable and can still be used to draw conclusions. Examples: crash testing cars or medical testing for rare conditions
  • Undue influence:  collecting data or asking questions in a way that influences the response
  • Non-response or refusal of subject to participate:  The collected responses may no longer be representative of the population.  Often, people with strong positive or negative opinions may answer surveys, which can affect the results.
  • Causality: A relationship between two variables does not mean that one causes the other to occur. They may be related (correlated) because of their relationship through a different variable.
  • Self-funded or self-interest studies: A study performed by a person or organization in order to support their claim. Is the study impartial? Read the study carefully to evaluate the work. Do not automatically assume that the study is good, but do not automatically assume the study is bad either. Evaluate it on its merits and the work done.
  • Misleading use of data: improperly displayed graphs, incomplete data, or lack of context
  • Confounding:  When the effects of multiple factors on a response cannot be separated.  Confounding makes it difficult or impossible to draw valid conclusions about the effect of each factor.

A study is done to determine the average tuition that San Jose State undergraduate students pay per semester. Each student in the following samples is asked how much tuition he or she paid for the Fall semester. What is the type of sampling in each case?

  1. A sample of 100 undergraduate San Jose State students is taken by organizing the students’ names by classification (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior), and then selecting 25 students from each.
  2. A random number generator is used to select a student from the alphabetical listing of all undergraduate students in the Fall semester. Starting with that student, every 50th student is chosen until 75 students are included in the sample.
  3. A completely random method is used to select 75 students. Each undergraduate student in the fall semester has the same probability of being chosen at any stage of the sampling process.
  4. The freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years are numbered one, two, three, and four, respectively. A random number generator is used to pick two of those years. All students in those two years are in the sample.
  5. An administrative assistant is asked to stand in front of the library one Wednesday and to ask the first 100 undergraduate students he encounters what they paid for tuition the Fall semester. Those 100 students are the sample.

a. stratified; b. systematic; c. simple random; d. cluster; e. convenience

Determine the type of sampling used (simple random, stratified, systematic, cluster, or convenience).

  1. A soccer coach selects six players from a group of boys aged eight to ten, seven players from a group of boys aged 11 to 12, and three players from a group of boys aged 13 to 14 to form a recreational soccer team.
  2. A pollster interviews all human resource personnel in five different high tech companies.
  3. A high school educational researcher interviews 50 high school female teachers and 50 high school male teachers.
  4. A medical researcher interviews every third cancer patient from a list of cancer patients at a local hospital.
  5. A high school counselor uses a computer to generate 50 random numbers and then picks students whose names correspond to the numbers.
  6. A student interviews classmates in his algebra class to determine how many pairs of jeans a student owns, on the average.

a. stratified; b. cluster; c. stratified; d. systematic; e. simple random; f.convenience

If we were to examine two samples representing the same population, even if we used random sampling methods for the samples, they would not be exactly the same. Just as there is variation in data, there is variation in samples. As you become accustomed to sampling, the variability will begin to seem natural.

Suppose ABC College has 10,000 part-time students (the population). We are interested in the average amount of money a part-time student spends on books in the fall term. Asking all 10,000 students is an almost impossible task.

Suppose we take two different samples.

First, we use convenience sampling and survey ten students from a first term organic chemistry class. Many of these students are taking first term calculus in addition to the organic chemistry class. The amount of money they spend on books is as follows:


The second sample is taken using a list of senior citizens who take P.E. classes and taking every fifth senior citizen on the list, for a total of ten senior citizens. They spend:


It is unlikely that any student is in both samples.

a. Do you think that either of these samples is representative of (or is characteristic of) the entire 10,000 part-time student population?

a. No. The first sample probably consists of science-oriented students. Besides the chemistry course, some of them are also taking first-term calculus. Books for these classes tend to be expensive. Most of these students are, more than likely, paying more than the average part-time student for their books. The second sample is a group of senior citizens who are, more than likely, taking courses for health and interest. The amount of money they spend on books is probably much less than the average parttime student. Both samples are biased. Also, in both cases, not all students have a chance to be in either sample.

b. Since these samples are not representative of the entire population, is it wise to use the results to describe the entire population?

b. No. For these samples, each member of the population did not have an equally likely chance of being chosen.

Now, suppose we take a third sample. We choose ten different part-time students from the disciplines of chemistry, math, English, psychology, sociology, history, nursing, physical education, art, and early childhood development. (We assume that these are the only disciplines in which part-time students at ABC College are enrolled and that an equal number of part-time students are enrolled in each of the disciplines.) Each student is chosen using simple random sampling. Using a calculator, random numbers are generated and a student from a particular discipline is selected if he or she has a corresponding number. The students spend the following amounts:


c. Is the sample biased?

c. The sample is unbiased, but a larger sample would be recommended to increase the likelihood that the sample will be close to representative of the population. However, for a biased sampling technique, even a large sample runs the risk of not being representative of the population.

Students often ask if it is “good enough” to take a sample, instead of surveying the entire population. If the survey is done well, the answer is yes.

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A local radio station has a fan base of 20,000 listeners. The station wants to know if its audience would prefer more music or more talk shows. Asking all 20,000 listeners is an almost impossible task.

The station uses convenience sampling and surveys the first 200 people they meet at one of the station’s music concert events. 24 people said they’d prefer more talk shows, and 176 people said they’d prefer more music.

Do you think that this sample is representative of (or is characteristic of) the entire 20,000 listener population?

Try It Solutions

The sample probably consists more of people who prefer music because it is a concert event. Also, the sample represents only those who showed up to the event earlier than the majority. The sample probably doesn’t represent the entire fan base and is probably biased towards people who would prefer music.

Variation in Data

Variation is present in any set of data. For example, 16-ounce cans of beverage may contain more or less than 16 ounces of liquid. In one study, eight 16 ounce cans were measured and produced the following amount (in ounces) of beverage:


Measurements of the amount of beverage in a 16-ounce can may vary because different people make the measurements or because the exact amount, 16 ounces of liquid, was not put into the cans. Manufacturers regularly run tests to determine if the amount of beverage in a 16-ounce can falls within the desired range.

Be aware that as you take data, your data may vary somewhat from the data someone else is taking for the same purpose. This is completely natural. However, if two or more of you are taking the same data and get very different results, it is time for you and the others to reevaluate your data-taking methods and your accuracy.

Variation in Samples

It was mentioned previously that two or more samples from the same population, taken randomly, and having close to the same characteristics of the population will likely be different from each other. Suppose Doreen and Jung both decide to study the average amount of time students at their college sleep each night. Doreen and Jung each take samples of 500 students. Doreen uses systematic sampling and Jung uses cluster sampling. Doreen’s sample will be different from Jung’s sample. Even if Doreen and Jung used the same sampling method, in all likelihood their samples would be different. Neither would be wrong, however.

Think about what contributes to making Doreen’s and Jung’s samples different.

If Doreen and Jung took larger samples (i.e. the number of data values is increased), their sample results (the average amount of time a student sleeps) might be closer to the actual population average. But still, their samples would be, in all likelihood, different from each other. This variability in samples cannot be stressed enough.

Size of a Sample

The size of a sample (often called the number of observations, usually given the symbol n) is important. The examples you have seen in this book so far have been small. Samples of only a few hundred observations, or even smaller, are sufficient for many purposes. In polling, samples that are from 1,200 to 1,500 observations are considered large enough and good enough if the survey is random and is well done. Later we will find that even much smaller sample sizes will give very good results. You will learn why when you study confidence intervals.

Be aware that many large samples are biased. For example, call-in surveys are invariably biased, because people choose to respond or not.


Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. (accessed May 1, 2013).

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. (accessed May 1, 2013).

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. (accessed May 1, 2013).

Data from

Dominic Lusinchi, “’President’ Landon and the 1936 Literary Digest Poll: Were Automobile and Telephone Owners to Blame?” Social Science History 36, no. 1: 23-54 (2012), (accessed May 1, 2013).

“The Literary Digest Poll,” Virtual Laboratories in Probability and Statistics (accessed May 1, 2013).

“Gallup Presidential Election Trial-Heat Trends, 1936–2008,” Gallup Politics (accessed May 1, 2013).

The Data and Story Library, (accessed May 1, 2013).

LBCC Distance Learning (DL) program data in 2010-2011, (accessed May 1, 2013).

Data from San Jose Mercury News

Chapter Review

Data are individual items of information that come from a population or sample. Data may be classified as qualitative (categorical), quantitative continuous, or quantitative discrete.

Because it is not practical to measure the entire population in a study, researchers use samples to represent the population. A random sample is a representative group from the population chosen by using a method that gives each individual in the population an equal chance of being included in the sample. Random sampling methods include simple random sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling, and systematic sampling. Convenience sampling is a nonrandom method of choosing a sample that often produces biased data.

Samples that contain different individuals result in different data. This is true even when the samples are well-chosen and representative of the population. When properly selected, larger samples model the population more closely than smaller samples. There are many different potential problems that can affect the reliability of a sample. Statistical data needs to be critically analyzed, not simply accepted.


For the following exercises, identify the type of data that would be used to describe a response (quantitative discrete, quantitative continuous, or qualitative), and give an example of the data.

number of tickets sold to a concert

quantitative discrete, 150

percent of body fat

<!– <solution id=”eip-534″> quantitative continuous, 19.2% –>

favorite baseball team

qualitative, Oakland A’s

time in line to buy groceries

<!– <solution id=”eip-664″> quantitative continuous, 7.2 minutes –>

number of students enrolled at Evergreen Valley College

quantitative discrete, 11,234 students

most-watched television show

<!– <solution id=”eip-191″> qualitative, Dancing with the Stars –>

brand of toothpaste

qualitative, Crest

distance to the closest movie theatre

<!– <solution id=”eip-525″> quantitative continuous, 8.32 miles –>

age of executives in Fortune 500 companies

quantitative continuous, 47.3 years

number of competing computer spreadsheet software packages

<!– <solution id=”eip-856″> quantitative discrete, three –>

Use the following information to answer the next two exercises: A study was done to determine the age, number of times per week, and the duration (amount of time) of resident use of a local park in San Jose. The first house in the neighborhood around the park was selected randomly and then every 8th house in the neighborhood around the park was interviewed.

“Number of times per week” is what type of data?

  1. qualitative (categorical)
  2. quantitative discrete
  3. quantitative continuous


“Duration (amount of time)” is what type of data?

  1. qualitative (categorical)
  2. quantitative discrete
  3. quantitative continuous

<!– <solution id=”fs-idm43848544″> c –>

Airline companies are interested in the consistency of the number of babies on each flight, so that they have adequate safety equipment. Suppose an airline conducts a survey. Over Thanksgiving weekend, it surveys six flights from Boston to Salt Lake City to determine the number of babies on the flights. It determines the amount of safety equipment needed by the result of that study.

  1. Using complete sentences, list three things wrong with the way the survey was conducted.
  2. Using complete sentences, list three ways that you would improve the survey if it were to be repeated.
  1. The survey was conducted using six similar flights.
    The survey would not be a true representation of the entire population of air travelers.
    Conducting the survey on a holiday weekend will not produce representative results.
  2. Conduct the survey during different times of the year.
    Conduct the survey using flights to and from various locations.
    Conduct the survey on different days of the week.

Suppose you want to determine the mean number of students per statistics class in your state. Describe a possible sampling method in three to five complete sentences. Make the description detailed.

<!– <solution id=”eip-14″> Answers will vary. Sample Answer: Randomly choose 25 colleges in the state. Use all statistics classes from each of the chosen colleges in the sample. This can be done by listing all the colleges together with a two-digit number starting with 00 then 01, etc. The list of colleges can be found on Wikipedia. Use a random number generator to pick 25 colleges. –>

Suppose you want to determine the mean number of cans of soda drunk each month by students in their twenties at your school. Describe a possible sampling method in three to five complete sentences. Make the description detailed.

Answers will vary. Sample Answer: You could use a systematic sampling method. Stop the tenth person as they leave one of the buildings on campus at 9:50 in the morning. Then stop the tenth person as they leave a different building on campus at 1:50 in the afternoon.

List some practical difficulties involved in getting accurate results from a telephone survey.

<!– <solution id=”eip-665″> Answers will vary. Sample Answer: Not all people have a listed phone number. Many people hang up or do not respond to phone surveys. –>

List some practical difficulties involved in getting accurate results from a mailed survey.

Answers will vary. Sample Answer: Many people will not respond to mail surveys. If they do respond to the surveys, you can’t be sure who is responding. In addition, mailing lists can be incomplete.

With your classmates, brainstorm some ways you could overcome these problems if you needed to conduct a phone or mail survey.

<!– <solution id=”eip-900″> Ask everyone to include their age then take a random sample from the data. Include in the report how the survey was conducted and why the results may not be accurate. –>

The instructor takes her sample by gathering data on five randomly selected students from each Lake Tahoe Community College math class. The type of sampling she used is

  1. cluster sampling
  2. stratified sampling
  3. simple random sampling
  4. convenience sampling


A study was done to determine the age, number of times per week, and the duration (amount of time) of residents using a local park in San Jose. The first house in the neighborhood around the park was selected randomly and then every eighth house in the neighborhood around the park was interviewed. The sampling method was:

  1. simple random
  2. systematic
  3. stratified
  4. cluster

<!– <solution id=”id30105067″> b –>

Name the sampling method used in each of the following situations:

  1. A woman in the airport is handing out questionnaires to travelers asking them to evaluate the airport’s service. She does not ask travelers who are hurrying through the airport with their hands full of luggage, but instead asks all travelers who are sitting near gates and not taking naps while they wait.
  2. A teacher wants to know if her students are doing homework, so she randomly selects rows two and five and then calls on all students in row two and all students in row five to present the solutions to homework problems to the class.
  3. The marketing manager for an electronics chain store wants information about the ages of its customers. Over the next two weeks, at each store location, 100 randomly selected customers are given questionnaires to fill out asking for information about age, as well as about other variables of interest.
  4. The librarian at a public library wants to determine what proportion of the library users are children. The librarian has a tally sheet on which she marks whether books are checked out by an adult or a child. She records this data for every fourth patron who checks out books.
  5. A political party wants to know the reaction of voters to a debate between the candidates. The day after the debate, the party’s polling staff calls 1,200 randomly selected phone numbers. If a registered voter answers the phone or is available to come to the phone, that registered voter is asked whom he or she intends to vote for and whether the debate changed his or her opinion of the candidates.

convenienceclusterstratified systematicsimple random

A “random survey” was conducted of 3,274 people of the “microprocessor generation” (people born since 1971, the year the microprocessor was invented). It was reported that 48% of those individuals surveyed stated that if they had ?2,000 to spend, they would use it for computer equipment. Also, 66% of those surveyed considered themselves relatively savvy computer users.

  1. Do you consider the sample size large enough for a study of this type? Why or why not?
  2. Based on your “gut feeling,” do you believe the percents accurately reflect the U.S. population for those individuals born since 1971? If not, do you think the percents of the population are actually higher or lower than the sample statistics? Why?
    Additional information: The survey, reported by Intel Corporation, was filled out by individuals who visited the Los Angeles Convention Center to see the Smithsonian Institute’s road show called “America’s Smithsonian.”
  3. With this additional information, do you feel that all demographic and ethnic groups were equally represented at the event? Why or why not?
  4. With the additional information, comment on how accurately you think the sample statistics reflect the population parameters.

<!– <solution id=”eip-379″> Yes, in polling, samples that are from 1,200 to 1,500 observations are considered large enough and good enough if the survey is random and is well done. We do not have enough information to decide if this is a random sample from the U.S. population. No, this is a convenience sample taken from individuals who visited an exhibition in the Angeles Convention Center. This sample is not representative of the U.S. population. It is possible that the two sample statistics, 48% and 66% are larger than the true parameters in the population at large. In any event, no conclusion about the population proportions can be inferred from this convenience sample. –>

The Well-Being Index is a survey that follows trends of U.S. residents on a regular basis. There are six areas of health and wellness covered in the survey: Life Evaluation, Emotional Health, Physical Health, Healthy Behavior, Work Environment, and Basic Access. Some of the questions used to measure the Index are listed below.

Identify the type of data obtained from each question used in this survey: qualitative(categorical), quantitative discrete, or quantitative continuous.

  1. Do you have any health problems that prevent you from doing any of the things people your age can normally do?
  2. During the past 30 days, for about how many days did poor health keep you from doing your usual activities?
  3. In the last seven days, on how many days did you exercise for 30 minutes or more?
  4. Do you have health insurance coverage?
  1. qualitative(categorical)
  2. quantitative discrete
  3. quantitative discrete
  4. qualitative(categorical)

In advance of the 1936 Presidential Election, a magazine titled Literary Digest released the results of an opinion poll predicting that the republican candidate Alf Landon would win by a large margin. The magazine sent post cards to approximately 10,000,000 prospective voters. These prospective voters were selected from the subscription list of the magazine, from automobile registration lists, from phone lists, and from club membership lists. Approximately 2,300,000 people returned the postcards.

  1. Think about the state of the United States in 1936. Explain why a sample chosen from magazine subscription lists, automobile registration lists, phone books, and club membership lists was not representative of the population of the United States at that time.
  2. What effect does the low response rate have on the reliability of the sample?
  3. Are these problems examples of sampling error or nonsampling error?
  4. During the same year, George Gallup conducted his own poll of 30,000 prospective voters. These researchers used a method they called “quota sampling” to obtain survey answers from specific subsets of the population. Quota sampling is an example of which sampling method described in this module?

<!– <solution id=”eip-idp38427792″> The country was in the middle of the Great Depression and many people could not afford these “luxury” items and therefore not able to be included in the survey. Samples that are too small can lead to sampling bias. sampling error stratified –>

Crime-related and demographic statistics for 47 US states in 1960 were collected from government agencies, including the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. One analysis of this data found a strong connection between education and crime indicating that higher levels of education in a community correspond to higher crime rates.

Which of the potential problems with samples discussed in (Figure) could explain this connection?

Causality: The fact that two variables are related does not guarantee that one variable is influencing the other. We cannot assume that crime rate impacts education level or that education level impacts crime rate.

Confounding: There are many factors that define a community other than education level and crime rate. Communities with high crime rates and high education levels may have other lurking variables that distinguish them from communities with lower crime rates and lower education levels. Because we cannot isolate these variables of interest, we cannot draw valid conclusions about the connection between education and crime. Possible lurking variables include police expenditures, unemployment levels, region, average age, and size.

YouPolls is a website that allows anyone to create and respond to polls. One question posted April 15 asks:

“Do you feel happy paying your taxes when members of the Obama administration are allowed to ignore their tax liabilities?” (lastbaldeagle. 2013. On Tax Day, House to Call for Firing Federal Workers Who Owe Back Taxes. Opinion poll posted online at: (accessed May 1, 2013).)

As of April 25, 11 people responded to this question. Each participant answered “NO!”

Which of the potential problems with samples discussed in this module could explain this connection?

<!– <solution id=”eip-353″> Self-Selected Samples: Only people who are interested in the topic are choosing to respond. Sample Size Issues: A sample with only 11 participants will not accurately represent the opinions of a nation. Undue Influence: The question is wording in a specific way to generate a specific response. Self-Funded or Self-Interest Studies: This question was generated to support one person’s claim and it was designed to get the answer that the person desires. –>

A scholarly article about response rates begins with the following quote:

“Declining contact and cooperation rates in random digit dial (RDD) national telephone surveys raise serious concerns about the validity of estimates drawn from such research.” (Scott Keeter et al., “Gauging the Impact of Growing Nonresponse on Estimates from a National RDD Telephone Survey,” Public Opinion Quarterly 70 no. 5 (2006), (accessed May 1, 2013).)

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press admits:

“The percentage of people we interview – out of all we try to interview – has been declining over the past decade or more.” (Frequently Asked Questions, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, (accessed May 1, 2013).)

  1. What are some reasons for the decline in response rate over the past decade?
  2. Explain why researchers are concerned with the impact of the declining response rate on public opinion polls.
  1. Possible reasons: increased use of caller id, decreased use of landlines, increased use of private numbers, voice mail, privacy managers, hectic nature of personal schedules, decreased willingness to be interviewed
  2. When a large number of people refuse to participate, then the sample may not have the same characteristics of the population. Perhaps the majority of people willing to participate are doing so because they feel strongly about the subject of the survey.

Key Terms

Cluster Sampling
a method for selecting a random sample and dividing the population into groups (clusters); use simple random sampling to select a set of clusters. Every individual in the chosen clusters is included in the sample.
Continuous Random Variable
a random variable (RV) whose outcomes are measured; the height of trees in the forest is a continuous RV.
Convenience Sampling
a nonrandom method of selecting a sample; this method selects individuals that are easily accessible and may result in biased data.
Discrete Random Variable
a random variable (RV) whose outcomes are counted
Nonsampling Error
an issue that affects the reliability of sampling data other than natural variation; it includes a variety of human errors including poor study design, biased sampling methods, inaccurate information provided by study participants, data entry errors, and poor analysis.
Qualitative Data
See Data.
Quantitative Data
See Data.
Random Sampling
a method of selecting a sample that gives every member of the population an equal chance of being selected.
Sampling Bias
not all members of the population are equally likely to be selected
Sampling Error
the natural variation that results from selecting a sample to represent a larger population; this variation decreases as the sample size increases, so selecting larger samples reduces sampling error.
Sampling with Replacement
Once a member of the population is selected for inclusion in a sample, that member is returned to the population for the selection of the next individual.
Sampling without Replacement
A member of the population may be chosen for inclusion in a sample only once. If chosen, the member is not returned to the population before the next selection.
Simple Random Sampling
a straightforward method for selecting a random sample; give each member of the population a number. Use a random number generator to select a set of labels. These randomly selected labels identify the members of your sample.
Stratified Sampling
a method for selecting a random sample used to ensure that subgroups of the population are represented adequately; divide the population into groups (strata). Use simple random sampling to identify a proportionate number of individuals from each stratum.
Systematic Sampling
a method for selecting a random sample; list the members of the population. Use simple random sampling to select a starting point in the population. Let k = (number of individuals in the population)/(number of individuals needed in the sample). Choose every kth individual in the list starting with the one that was randomly selected. If necessary, return to the beginning of the population list to complete your sample.


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Introductory Business Statistics by OSCRiceUniversity is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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