In the preceding chapter we reviewed the basic methodologies available to the marketing researcher and classified these as observation, experimentation and survey. All three methodologies are concerned with the systematic gathering and analysis of data with a view to informing the decision-maker and enabling him to make a better decision than would be possible in the absence of that information. But, as we have also seen, the acquisition of additional information is a resource-hungry process which requires the decision-maker to balance some element of risk or uncertainty against the time and money which would be necessary to reduce this still further. Ideally, we would like to consult everyone likely to be influenced by or to have an effect on our decision but, in practice, we will usually have to compromise. Sampling offers us a means of doing this in an acceptable way and in this chapter we shall look at the basic ideas underlying sampling, the different kinds of sample available, their various advantages and disadvantages, and the planning of a sampling operation. Such technical matters as calculating sample size, variability, error and bias will be touched on in Appendix 1 to the chapter, together with references to additional sources for those who wish to explore these issues further.
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