Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Sampling and Its Drawbacks

In Chapter 6 of Luker's (2008), Salsa Dancing Into The Social Sciences, a method of researching called sampling, where random subjects are observed and compared to each other, is discussed.  Luker states that researchers use sampling as a form of data collection "because there is no way [they] can gather all of the possible bits of information that would illuminate research question[s]" (p. 101).  Personally, I find that this method carries a great danger of resulting in narrow-viewed conclusions.  If only several random subjects are observed, one cannot see the big picture in how they relate to whole population of subjects.  Those selected for sampling may not represent what is wide-spread or accepted as the norm in the population.  While I agree with Luker that sampling would save time and energy for researchers (p. 101), those factors should not compromise the quality of research that one must do to answer their research question accurately.  

Luker goes on to say that sampling is not meant to represent the larger population, but rather the larger phenomenon (p. 103).  In this case, researchers would have to pick and choose their subjects in order to ensure that they are relevant to the cause at hand.  This, however, could certainly result in the manipulating of research conclusions because if researchers have control of those they study, they could promote their own agenda in getting the results they are looking for.

Luker, K. (2008). Salsa dancing into the social sciences: Research in an age of info-glut. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


  1. Looking more into sampling... I don't think I'm right. Whoops. The way I read Luker, I thought sampling was very small scale -- choosing only a few people to be observed. I just read of an example in another study with 50 sampled subjects. In this case, the method would be beneficial because the chosen people would represent more than just a few perspectives.

  2. When reading your post Danielle I actually think that you make some very good points. I do agree with Luker’s assessment that sampling is a necessary task for both researchers and in everyday life due to the impossibility of collecting all information. But, I also agree with the assessment that this method carries a danger of producing narrow and flawed conclusions. One example is the case presented by Luker of the women’s health study that found putting women on Hormone Replacement Therapy diminished the risk of heart attack. This study was found to be flawed due to the chosen sample. The sample of women reviewed in the study were all nurses and had better health habits then the general public (Luker, 2008, p. 58). This case demonstrates that trusting that your sample is an exact reflection of the larger society can result in flawed results. The same is true in everyday life one might sample the beginning of a movie and decide it is not for them, but the beginning may not be a true reflection of the whole. It is possible that the individual may have had an overall positive view of the entire movie if they watched it. In, conclusion though sampling is necessary we need to be away of how our sample is comprised random or otherwise and how this might affect our conclusion.