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Time Sampling: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is Time Sampling?
  • 1:19 Whole Interval Recording
  • 1:59 Partial Interval Recording
  • 2:50 Momentary Time Sampling
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that there are three different types of time sampling? Learn more about time sampling from examples, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Time Sampling?

Kim is a psychologist that has been tasked with evaluating an after-school literacy program for middle school children. One of the things Kim would like to examine is how often the children read while attending the program. Kim reasons that the best way to collect this data is by directly observing the after school program. Though there are several different methods Kim could use to observe and record her data, she ultimately chooses time sampling.

Time sampling is a method of collecting data or information in which you watch research participants for a specific amount of time and record whether or not a particular behavior or activity took place. Kim decided that she would observe the program for two hours at a time each day for a month. She broke each two-hour session down into fifteen-minute intervals. After Kim defined the specific reading behavior that she's looking for, she then created a boxed sheet that she can use to record whether or not reading (the behavior she is observing) occurs. Kim also brought along a timer so that she can know when each interval begins and ends.

Kim uses this sheet to help her keep track of her observations.
time sampling

Now that Kim has decided to use time sampling, she must next determine which approach to use. There are three different methods of time sampling: 'whole interval recording', 'partial interval recording', and 'momentary time sampling'.

Whole Interval Recording

If Kim is interested in observing whether the children read for the entire fifteen-minute interval, then she would use the whole interval recording. As the name suggests, whole interval recording involves looking to see if the particular behavior or activity that you are observing occurs throughout the entire duration of the interval. This means that Kim would observe the children to see if they are reading for the whole fifteen minutes. For every fifteen-minute interval that this experiment records, Kim would write a 'Y' in the box below the interval number. If the children are not reading at any time during an interval, even if it is only for a minute, Kim would write 'N' in the box below the interval number.

Partial Interval Recording

If Kim is interested in observing whether the children read at any point during an interval, then she would use partial interval recording. Partial interval recording is when you look for a particular behavior and record whether or not that behavior occurred during any part of the specified interval. If the children were reading during any part of the fifteen-minute interval, even if it was just for a few seconds, Kim would write a 'Y' in the box below the interval number. Kim would write 'N' if reading did not occur during that interval. Partial interval recording is particularly helpful when behaviors typically don't last as long as the length of the interval (i.e. a person doesn't usually swear for fifteen minutes at a time), it is not easy to tell when the behavior begins or ends, or the behavior occurs so frequently that it is hard to count individual instances.

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