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Design Decisions in Research

4. The Design and Planning Phase

Sampling Plan

Identification of the study population and related inclusion and exclusion criteria are key components needed for the development of a sampling plan. Because it is impossible to collect data from an entire population of interest, data is collected from a subset of the target population who will be representative of the whole population.

The sampling plan specifies how the sample will be selected and the sample size. Inclusion and exclusion criteria are identified to stipulate the exact characteristics that must be met for a participant to be eligible for inclusion in a study and what exact characteristics would exclude a given participant for study eligibility.

Example 4

For example, if the purpose of the study is to examine emotional distress in mid-life women who have a new diagnosis of breast cancer, the inclusion criteria would stipulate that potential participants must be within a certain age range that constitutes mid-life and have a new diagnosis based on a defined time frame. More information on sampling is found in the chapter Sample Surveys by Sarah Nusser, PhD and Mike Larsen, PhD.