Sample surveys are conducted by selecting units from a population and recording information or data on the units. The units comprise the population and can be individuals or households; businesses or other establishments; students, teachers, or schools; acres of land; financial accounts or items in inventory; or any other element that can be meaningfully thought of as defining a population to be studied. This chapter gives an outline of the steps that are necessary to conduct a scientific sample survey and discusses many of the practical issues involved.
Scientific means that the survey adheres to standards that enable one to make defensible, statistical statements about the population of interest.
Practical issues arise because of the complexities of gathering information on many real populations. This chapter focuses mainly on surveys of human populations.
References to more specific information on topics covered in this overview of sample surveys are provided at the end of the chapter.