Assessing Limitations and Uses of Convenience Samples: A Guide for Graduate Students

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In JSM Proceedings, Section on Statistical Education. Alexandria, VA: American Statistical Association.

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Graduate students in applied areas such as psychology and public health often collect data for their dissertation projects and are typically faced with constraints that result in their samples being viewed as mere convenience samples. In describing their sampling plan and its limitations, students often struggle to evaluate the quality of their sampling procedures. This poster takes the view that all samples of human participants are convenience samples to some degree, if for no other reason than ethical considerations make participation voluntary and financial limits make pure random sampling exorbitantly expensive. According to this view, psychology and other applied fields are disciplines built on convenience samples. In spite of the use of convenience samples, applied statistics and data analysis procedures are useful in making advances in applied research. Because some convenience samples may be better than others, this poster session will examine factors and issues in sample selection. The aim is initiate discussion that will result in a framework that graduate students can use to address how to generalize their results.