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Category# Statistical sampling

Summary

In statistics, quality assurance, and survey methodology, sampling is the selection of a subset or a statistical sample (termed sample for short) of individuals from within a statistical population to estimate characteristics of the whole population. Statisticians attempt to collect samples that are representative of the population. Sampling has lower costs and faster data collection compared to recording data from the entire population, and thus, it can provide insights in cases where it is infeasible to measure an entire population.
Each observation measures one or more properties (such as weight, location, colour or mass) of independent objects or individuals. In survey sampling, weights can be applied to the data to adjust for the sample design, particularly in stratified sampling. Results from probability theory and statistical theory are employed to guide the practice. In business and medical research, sampling is widely used for gathering information about a population. Acceptance sampling is used to determine if a production lot of material meets the governing specifications.
Successful statistical practice is based on focused problem definition. In sampling, this includes defining the "population" from which our sample is drawn. A population can be defined as including all people or items with the characteristics one wishes to understand. Because there is very rarely enough time or money to gather information from everyone or everything in a population, the goal becomes finding a representative sample (or subset) of that population.
Sometimes what defines a population is obvious. For example, a manufacturer needs to decide whether a batch of material from production is of high enough quality to be released to the customer or should be scrapped or reworked due to poor quality. In this case, the batch is the population.
Although the population of interest often consists of physical objects, sometimes it is necessary to sample over time, space, or some combination of these dimensions.

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