Sampling represents the problem of accurately acquiring the necessary data in order to form a representative view of the problem. This is much more difficult to do than is generally realized.

Overall Methodology:

- State the objectives of the survey
- Define the target population
- Define the data to be collected
- Define the variables to be determined
- Define the required precision and accuracy
- Define the measurement `instrument'
- Define the sample frame, sample size and sampling method, then select the sample

Distributions:

When you form a sample you represent that by a plotted distribution known as a histogram . A histogram is the distribution of frequency of occurrence of a certain variable within a specified range. An example histogramming is shown below

This has broad bins

This one has narrow bins

Here is a "live" example of data sampling and histogram construction

How to construct a histogram:

Here is an example of how, exactly, you do this.

Step 1: Defining the target population and the problem: In this case we are interested in the distribution of tree diameters in a pine forest.

Step 2: Define the measurement: We will define a standard tree diameter one which is measured at a height of 1.0 meters above the ground

Step 3: Define the population: There are thousands of trees in the forest. We decide (for reasons to be clear later) to go randomly sample 50 trees. How do we do this? We go the middle of the forest with a deck of cards. The 4 suits represent North, South, East, and West and the rank of the card represents a distance in meters.

We shuffle the deck and get the 10 of hearts - this means that we go 10 meters west and measure the first tree we encounter at that position. Then we shuffle the deck and go on. This procedure, of course, assumes that the middle of the forest is just like any other place in the forest.

After telling our statistics boss about this they say its a bad assumption and the boss makes us go to 24 separate locations in the forest to measure 50 tree diameters at each location. So we have a total of 1200 measurements.

Step 4: Collect the data: In this case we are very anal and take a measuring device which measures tree diameters to an accuracy of 0.001 centimeters. Here is the tabular form of the data for the first site where 50 trees were measured.

62.653 63.375 63.241 63.574 62.061 61.010 49.314 56.207 61.152 56.125 57.055 56.162 63.174 59.219 60.983 56.327 61.399 64.470 56.693 56.905 66.167 67.443 66.595 55.845 65.250 62.309 64.621 56.444 53.981 57.540 49.154 58.910 59.146 68.144 59.853 58.584 61.382 60.999 51.388 58.044 58.041 65.309 56.949 62.992 54.460 59.850 56.871 56.909 60.206 58.425

As you can see, just looking at the numbers this way doesn't tell you a lot.

Step 5: Since we are interested in a distribution of tree diameters we can count the tree diameter data in bins of fixed size (say 5 cm). For the 1200 measurements that have been made, we sort the data into bins of width 5 cm each to get:

Bin Limits | Frequency | Proportion ------------------------------------------------ 30.00 to 34.99 | 0 | 0.000 35.00 to 39.99 | 0 | 0.000 40.00 to 44.99 | 0 | 0.000 45.00 to 49.99 | 22 | 0.018 50.00 to 54.99 | 147 | 0.123 55.00 to 59.99 | 402 | 0.335 60.00 to 64.99 | 428 | 0.357 65.00 to 69.99 | 185 | 0.154 70.00 to 74.99 | 15 | 0.012 75.00 to 79.99 | 0 | 0.000 80.00 to 84.99 | 1 | 0.001 85.00 + | 0 | 0.000 ------------------------------------------------- 1200 1.000

Step 6: We construct the histogram by plotting the frequency vs the bin width. This is also known as a bar graph and its shown here:

A critical question to now ask is "What is the minimum sample size required to accurately represent a distribution"? That depends on the intrinsic shape of the distribution! As we will learn later, for distributions that are intrinsically bell shaped (these are called Normal or Gaussian distributions) 25-30 random measurements are usually good enough.

Note: student exam scores are usually on a bell curve and that is how your grade is determined by your position on that curve relative to the average. We will put this into practice in this class.

Simulations:

Typical Problems:

- Sample is of insufficient size: means that you weren't
very clever when you defined the sample
- The sample is biased: often biases can be subtle and can take
time to find and correct. Control samples are usually not an adequate
substitute as they could be biased as well
- The wrong variables were measured: the collected data are
measuring secondary effects not primary effects. This happens a
lot!
- The sample is censored: there exists a population which
is below the threshold of your measuring technique or apparatus.
This is very difficult to deal with.
- The data precision is low: you have only low signal-to-noise
results
- The intrinsic measuring accuracy of the instrument is unknown which leads to an artifical spread in the true distribution.

Examples:

- Decline in Salmon Runs: What constitutes a representative measure?
- How to measure deforestation/clear cutting? From the ground? From the Air? From satellites?
- How to characterize this distribution
- How to measure how much old growth is needed for spotted owl environment? 500 Acres? What about predators?
- What is the characteristic annual rainfall in Eugene?
- Add your questions or comments about this particular assignment