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Non-Probability Sampling: Methods, Types, Advantages

Kate Williams

19 January 2024

5 min read

What’s the secret behind groundbreaking research? Don’t you think it is a smooth amalgamation of intuition and methodology? Sampling is the cornerstone of research, adding credibility to the bits and pieces of the puzzle we try to solve. And, within the realm of sampling, there is probability sampling and non-probability sampling. This blog will look deeper into the meaning, types, methods, and all you need to know about the latter.

But before we begin, let’s look at some familiar terminology.


Sampling is a systematic process to select a subset of individuals or items from a larger population. It employs mathematical and statistical techniques to ensure that the chosen samples represent the characteristics of the population of interest accurately. It allows researchers to gather insights, draw conclusions, and make predictions about the population without the exhaustive effort and resources required to study every individual or element within it.

Sampling is like taking a smart peek at a big group without talking to everyone. Just imagine talking to a few million people and drawing a conclusion! Impossible right?


Researchers use sampling methods to select a subset of individuals or items from a larger population, enabling them to draw conclusions about the entire group.

Moreover, you can use advanced platforms such as SurveySparrow to streamline the sampling process. You can create surveys, collate data, analyze it, and act upon the insights gained. Data collection and analysis have never been easier

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Probability Sampling vs. Non-Probability Sampling

Probability SamplingNon-Probability Sampling
SelectionRandomNot Random
RepresentationHighly RepresentativeMay Not Represent
BiasLowPotential Bias
AccuracyHighModerate to Low
ApplicabilityVersatileLimited Context

1. Selection: In probability sampling, individuals or items are chosen purely by chance, ensuring every member has a fair shot. Non-probability sampling, on the other hand, lacks randomness; selections are often based on convenience or judgment.

2. Representation: Probability sampling tends to create highly representative samples, reflecting the entire population accurately. In non-probability sampling, representation might not be as precise, potentially missing key traits of the larger population.

3. Bias: Probability sampling boasts low bias, providing unbiased results when executed correctly. Non-probability sampling, due to its non-random nature, might introduce biases, skewing the findings.

4. Accuracy: Probability sampling yields high accuracy, leading to reliable results. Non-probability sampling offers moderate to low accuracy; findings might lack precision due to the absence of randomness.

5. Applicability: Probability sampling is versatile and suitable for various research contexts. Non-probability sampling, while creative, is limited in its applicability and often employed in specific situations where randomness isn’t mandatory.

What is Non-Probability Sampling?

Now, let’s delve deeper.

Nonprobability sampling is a method where samples are chosen without ensuring that every individual or item in the population has an equal or known chance of being selected. Unlike probability sampling, which relies on random selection, non-probability sampling methods are based on the researcher’s judgment, convenience, or specific criteria.

These methods can include convenience sampling, judgmental sampling, quota sampling, and snowball sampling, among others. While non-probability sampling offers flexibility and creativity in research, the lack of randomness can lead to potential biases and reduced accuracy in the obtained results.

While non-probability sampling offers flexibility and creativity in research, the lack of randomness can lead to potential biases and reduced accuracy in the obtained results.

Types of Non-Probability Sampling

Non-probability sampling methods are diverse and offer unique approaches to gathering data. Here are some common types you should know:

1. Convenience Sampling

Convenience sampling involves selecting individuals or items that are most accessible to the researcher. It’s a quick and straightforward method, often used for preliminary research or studies with limited resources.

Let’s say you want to survey smartphone usage in a busy city center.  So, you approach people passing by, collecting responses from those readily available. While convenient, this method may not represent the broader population’s smartphone habits, as it primarily captures the views of urban dwellers.

2. Judgmental Sampling

Judgmental sampling relies on the researcher’s expertise to select specific individuals or items based on their knowledge of the population. It is subjective and can be influenced by the researcher’s biases.

Consider a marketing expert analyzing consumer preferences for a new product. Using their expertise, they select specific focus groups based on age, income, and shopping behavior. By choosing participants relevant to the study, the expert gains insights tailored to the target market, albeit with the risk of personal bias influencing the selection.

3. Quota Sampling

Quota sampling divides the population into subgroups or quotas based on specific characteristics such as age, gender, or occupation. Researchers then select samples from each quota, ensuring proportional representation from different segments.

For instance, if you divide the population into age brackets and select respondents from each category until quotas are met, it makes the findings more comprehensive.

4. Purposive Sampling

Purposive sampling involves selecting specific individuals or items for a particular purpose, often due to their expertise or unique characteristics. Researchers choose samples deliberately to meet the study’s objectives.

5. Snowball Sampling

Snowball sampling is commonly used when studying hard-to-reach or hidden populations. It starts with an initial participant who refers to other potential participants, creating a ‘snowball’ effect. This method helps researchers access populations that are not easily accessible.

When to Use Non-Probability Sampling

Understanding when to use non-probability sampling methods requires careful consideration of research goals, available resources, and the nature of the study population. It’s not like you find one easy and then decide to go with it.

Use it when:

1. You are exploring

When you are in the initial stages of a study and need quick insights, non-probability sampling, especially convenience sampling, proves invaluable. Its speed and simplicity are ideal for exploratory research, providing initial data to shape further investigation.

2. You have limited resources

When you have limited time, budget, or access to a diverse population, methods such as quota or convenience sampling become practical choices. These methods offer feasible solutions without draining valuable resources.

3. You go into qualitative studies

Qualitative research often aims for depth rather than breadth.  Methods like purposive or snowball sampling allow researchers to select participants based on specific traits or experiences, enhancing the richness of qualitative data.

4. You try to understand social phenomena

When studying social behaviors, attitudes, or phenomena that are difficult to quantify, non-probability sampling methods excel. They allow researchers to delve deep into human experiences, capturing nuances that might be overlooked in structured, probability-based approaches.

5. You are conducting pilot studies

Non-probability sampling methods are commonly used in pilot studies. Researchers use convenience or judgmental sampling to test methodologies, questionnaires, or hypotheses before committing to large-scale, resource-intensive studies. This helps in refining research strategies before full-scale implementation.

Advantages of Non-Probability Sampling

It offers swift, flexible, and ethically sound advantages, catering to specific research requirements.

  1. Cost-effectiveness: It is a budget-friendly way of collecting data.
  2. Time Efficiency: Offers quick insights due to rapid implementation
  3. Flexibility: Participant selection is tailored based on specific criteria.
  4. Exploratory Focus: Ideal for generating hypotheses and insights swiftly.
  5. Access to Hidden Populations: Reaches elusive or marginalized groups effectively.
  6. Qualitative Depth: Enhances depth in qualitative research studies.
  7. Ethical Considerations: It respects participant privacy in sensitive research contexts.

Best Practices for Non-probability Sampling

#1 Define Clear Objectives

Clearly outline research goals and questions to guide the sampling process. Specific objectives enhance the relevance of participant selection.

#2 Understand the Population

Thoroughly grasp the characteristics of the target population. This understanding informs the selection criteria, ensuring the chosen sample is representative.

#3 Use Multiple Methods

Combine different non-probability sampling techniques strategically. Employing various methods enhances the diversity of perspectives and enriches the study’s findings.

#4 Minimize Bias

Acknowledge potential biases and take steps to minimize them. Also, be aware of researcher biases and implement techniques to reduce their impact on participant selection.

#5 Ensure Transparency

Be clear and transparent. You must document the sampling methods and rationale. Transparent reporting enhances the study’s credibility and allows for critical evaluation by peers.

#6 Validate Results

Lastly, validate the findings through comparison with existing data or cross-referencing with other research studies. This enhances the reliability of conclusions drawn from the samples.


Non-probability sampling shines for its flexibility and speed. By understanding the nuances of different methods and adhering to best practices, you can generate meaningful insights, especially in exploratory or qualitative studies. But again, while it’s handy for quick insights, it has limitations like potential sampling biases. Use it judiciously by recognizing its strengths and mitigating its weaknesses.

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Kate Williams

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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