Sampling Frame: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is a Sampling Frame?
  • 1:12 Examples
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara Lehan

With a doctorate in marriage and family therapy and a certificate in measurement and statistics, Tara has taught social science courses to students of all levels.

When conducting research, it's important to define the population that you're interested in by using a sampling frame. In this lesson, you will learn about the definition of a sampling frame and apply what you learn to real-world examples.

What Is a Sampling Frame?

When developing a research study, one of the first things that you need to do is clarify all of the units (also referred to as cases) that you are interested in studying. Units could be people, organizations, or existing documents. In research, these units make up the population of interest. When defining the population, it's really important to be as specific as possible.

The problem is it's not always possible or feasible to study every unit in a population. For example, you might be interested in American college students' attitudes about owning houses. It would obviously be too time-consuming and costly to collect information from every college student in the United States. In cases like these, you can study a portion or subset of the population called a sample. The process of selecting a sample needs to be deliberate, and there are various sampling techniques that you can use depending upon the purpose of the research.

Prior to selecting a sample you need to define a sampling frame, which is a list of all the units of the population of interest. You can only apply your research findings to the population defined by the sampling frame.


Imagine that you're interested in examining customers' satisfaction with the service that they received at a local pizzeria since it opened one year ago. Once again, it would probably require too much time and money to collect this information from every person who has ever eaten at the pizzeria. Therefore, you would need to define a sampling frame.

If you decided to use credit card receipts to identify customers in the population, your findings might not apply to all of the customers of the pizzeria over the last year. Specifically, customers who paid with cash, a check, or a gift certificate would not be in the sampling frame. It's also possible that customers who paid with a credit card are different in terms of their satisfaction with service than those who used another form of payment.

Another issue that you could face is that only one person per party might be included in the sampling frame. It's possible that those who actually paid for the pizza using their credit card might be different in terms of satisfaction with service than those who did not.

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