Researching information in order to obtain verifiable data to use in your business is important to ensure your efforts stay on track. Among other uses, this information can be applied in deciding what trends are desirable in the industry at the time, as well as to align organizational goals and objectives to meet customers’ needs and demands. Understanding the difference between target and sample populations is a crucial step in obtaining the data necessary to move your business ahead.

Target and Sample Populations

A target population is simply the group of individuals you have selected to study or research. A sample population is a subgroup of the target population. Sample populations are often used in research because of the near impossibility of polling or studying the entire group. Ideally, sample populations are a selection of individuals who more or less reflect the demographics of your chosen target population. The target population can be compared to a snapshot of the whole, or a slice of the pie. Different types of sampling have various methods for obtaining data

Probability Sampling

Probability sampling is a type of sampling that practices a random selection of the target population. An example of simple random sampling, a method of probability sampling, is when a researcher utilizes a roster of the entire target population and selects individuals by applying a mathematical algorithm to pick people from the roster to study or question. Another example of probability sampling is cluster sampling. Cluster sampling is useful when the target population is highly diverse and scattered. For example, while studying employees of a national company, researchers might select all the employees from a few cities in which the company is located, rather than a few employees in all the cities where the company has locations.

Non-Probability Sampling

Non-probability sampling is sampling without the use of randomness. For example, snowball sampling is used when researchers utilize subjects of the study to recommend other individuals for the study. Quota sampling is sampling a certain amount of individuals to fill the required quota. Convenience sampling utilizes individuals who are available and convenient for study. Expert sampling is used to study individuals only considered experts for the purposes of the research, thereby disqualifying others who do not meet the established criteria.

Ethnographic Sampling

Data collected for ethnographic research is largely observant in nature. For instance, information is collected by interviews and accessing artifacts, books, or journals. It utilizes theoretical sampling, which allows researchers to evolve the scope of the research dependent upon information being obtained. Additionally, selective sampling is used when researchers select specific locations or people to interview.