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Sampling Bias: Definition, Methods, and How To Avoid It

Kate Williams

25 February 2024

6 min read

Have you ever thought about how researchers make sure their studies represent everyone fairly? Well, there’s something called sampling bias that can get in the way.

It is like that sneaky culprit that can plague your results if unchecked. Understanding its meaning is crucial because it helps researchers know how confident they can be in their findings.

In this blog, we’ll explore what sampling bias is, how it arises, and why it’s crucial for researchers to account for it in their studies.

Off we go!

What is Sampling Bias?

Sampling bias is a form of statistical error that occurs when the sample selected to collect data is not representative of the population from which it was chosen. This type of bias can lead to inaccurate results and conclusions, as important population segments may be systematically excluded from the sample.

As a result, the study results will not accurately reflect the actual characteristics or behavior of the target population. The effects of sampling bias on research results can be profound, leading to incorrect assumptions about potential risk factors or other data-driven insights.

What can you do in such a situation? An audience panel is one of the best ways to avoid bias. This ensures that different kinds of people are included in a study. How? By picking participants randomly and giving everyone a fair chance to be part of the panel.

This way, the study represents various opinions and backgrounds, reducing the chance of getting unfair results. But having a trusted partner to help you with this is essential.

Perhaps Surveysparrow can assist you here. By asking the right questions to the right audience, you can gather accurate data that truly reflects the pulse of your target market. With Surveysparrow’s Audience Panel, you can uncover your strengths, identify blind spots, and make better decisions effortlessly. The quality panel spans more than 149 countries from diverse demographics to suit the nature of your survey.

Why don’t you take it for a spin? It’s free!

Here’s How Sampling Bias Affects Search Results?

In addition to affecting research accuracy, sampling bias can also affect validity and reliability.

  • If researchers cannot adequately represent a given population in their sample, then their findings may not apply to that population – and thus become invalid.
  • Similarly, if their samples do not contain enough diversity or variation, they may lack sufficient power to draw reliable conclusions from their data.

Common sample selection methods associated with sampling bias include self-selection methods (i.e., volunteer recruitment) and convenience samples (i.e., choosing participants who are readily available).

It is also possible for unintentional biases such as selection-caused nonresponse (SCNR) or low response rates to lead to biased samples. To avoid these issues, researchers must ensure that their samples are representative of the target population by using randomization methods such as random digit dialing or stratified sampling techniques that account for variability in demographic characteristics among different groups within the target population.

Researchers should also ensure they use adequate incentives and consistent follow-up procedures to maximize response rates and prevent SCNR errors.

How to Avoid Sampling Bias?

There are several ways researchers can avoid sampling bias in their studies.

  • Include using randomization methods and stratified sampling techniques to ensure representativeness and taking steps to maximize response rates and minimize selection-caused nonresponse.
  • Researchers can use valid and reliable measurement tools to reduce the potential for error.
  • Researchers should be mindful of any potential sources of bias or confounding variables in their sample selection process and take steps to eliminate them where possible.

How Can a Survey Tool Help Avoid Sampling Bias?

Let’s go with an example to understand this. For instance, SurveySparrow is an online survey tool designed to help researchers and organizations avoid sampling bias in their studies. It provides a range of features that can help researchers create representative, reliable study samples.


SurveySparrow’s advanced capabilities enable users to randomize the surveys.

  • Advanced Logic Features: SurveySparrow offers powerful survey logic and skip logic features, enabling users to filter out irrelevant or invalid responses swiftly. This reduces potential bias by ensuring only pertinent data is collected.
  • Tailored Questions: Researchers can create targeted questions customized to each respondent’s unique characteristics. This individualized approach helps in gathering accurate data, enhancing the representativeness of the survey results.
  • Reduced Bias: By using the advanced features, researchers can significantly reduce sampling bias. The ability to create tailored surveys ensures that responses are specific to the participant, minimizing the risk of skewed data.
  • Survey Randomization: Randomized question order minimizes sequence-related biases, ensuring more reliable data.
  • Improved Data Reliability: SurveySparrow empowers researchers to build more representative samples and reliable datasets. The precise targeting of questions enhances the accuracy of responses, leading to more trustworthy research outcomes.

If you’re interested, sign up today!

Happy surveying! 🙂

Common Methods of Sample Selection That Can Lead to Bias?

Common sample selection methods that can lead to bias include self-selection methods, convenience samples, and selection-caused nonresponse (SCNR). Self-selection methods are when participants are volunteers who respond to invitations or requests for participation.

These samples may contain individuals with specific interests or opinions that could skew the results. Convenience samples are when participants are randomly selected from easy-to-access sources, such as those in an organization’s network or those close to the researcher. These samples may be unrepresentative of the target population and can lead to biased results. Finally, SCNR occurs when a certain population segment is systematically excluded from the sample selection process, resulting in an unrepresentative sample.

There are several common methods of sample selection that can lead to bias:

1. Convenience Sampling

This method involves selecting individuals or items that are easy to reach. For example, surveying people who are nearby or readily available. This can lead to biased results because the sample may not be representative of the larger population.

2. Volunteer Bias

This occurs when individuals volunteer to participate in a study. Volunteers might differ significantly from non-volunteers, leading to a biased sample. Volunteers might be more motivated, healthier, or have different attitudes compared to the general population.

3. Self-Selection Bias

When individuals are allowed to decide whether to be part of the study or not, it can lead to self-selection bias. For instance, in online surveys or studies relying on voluntary responses, only certain types of people may choose to participate, leading to a biased sample.

4. Non-Response Bias

If a significant portion of the selected sample does not respond to the survey or study, the respondents might differ from the non-respondents in important ways. This can lead to non-response bias, where the results are not representative of the entire population due to the missing data.

5. Survivorship Bias

This bias occurs when the sample includes only subjects that have survived a particular process or event. For example, studying successful companies without considering those that failed might lead to incorrect conclusions about what leads to success.

6. Sampling from a Non-Randomized Population

If the initial population from which the sample is drawn is not randomly selected, it can introduce bias. For example, if a study only considers data from urban areas and generalizes it to the entire country, it can lead to biased results.

7. Hawthorne Effect

This bias occurs when individuals modify their behavior because they know they are being observed. If participants in a study change their behavior due to awareness of being studied, the results may not accurately reflect their usual behavior.

8. Confirmation Bias

In research where the investigators have a preconceived notion about the outcome they expect, there might be a tendency to subconsciously select a sample or interpret results in a way that confirms those expectations, leading to bias.

9. Cluster Sampling Bias

Cluster sampling, where the population is divided into clusters and then clusters are randomly selected, can introduce bias if the clusters themselves are not representative of the population.

10. Stratified Sampling Bias

While stratified sampling is a good method for ensuring diverse representation, if the strata are not correctly defined or if the selection within strata is biased, it can lead to skewed results.

To avoid bias from these sample selection methods, researchers should use randomization and stratified sampling techniques that account for variability among different groups within the target population.

Measures to Correct Effects of Sampling Bias

Yes, there are several measures that researchers can take to correct for the effects of sampling bias.

  • First and foremost, researchers should use randomization methods and stratified sampling techniques to create a representative sample of the target population.
  • Randomization ensures that researchers give all individuals in the population an equal chance of being included in the sample.
  • In stratified sampling, researchers divide the population into smaller, homogeneous groups and take samples from each of these groups. This method ensures that the sample represents all population segments proportionally.

Researchers should also take steps to reduce sources of bias or confounding variables in their sample selection process. For example, they can use advanced targeting capabilities to ensure that the sample reflects the target population’s characteristics. Or, maybe use randomization tools to select participants from a larger group randomly. They can also use survey logic and skip logic features to filter out irrelevant or invalid responses quickly.

Overall, by taking these measures, researchers can help ensure that their samples are more representative and accurate. By doing so, they can help reduce the potential for sampling bias and its effects on their results and interpretations.


Knowing about sampling bias is super important for researchers and data analysts. It messes up the results, making conclusions wrong and decisions, well, not so great. But if you know how bias can sneak into samples (like when people are chosen just because they’re nearby or because they volunteered) you can do things to stop it from happening.

Using random methods and being careful about who you include in your study can help a lot. It’s like making sure you’re getting the right pieces of a puzzle to see the whole picture clearly. Additionally, being aware of the context and the specific characteristics of the population being studied is essential.

Before you go, give SurveySparrow a try today!

Kate Williams

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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