Sample Size – Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (2023)

Many times those conducting surveys are told that larger samples are always preferable to smaller ones. This is not always necessarily the case. An array of factors, including degree of variability in the population, the degree of accuracy desired, and the analysis the results will be subject to, should be considered when deciding upon a sample size.

Degree of accuracy desired:Related to the subject of Power Analysis (which is beyond the scope of this site), this method requires the researcher to consider the acceptable margin of error and the confidence interval for their study. The online resource from Raosoft and Raven Analytics uses this principle.

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Degree of variability (homogeneity/heterogeneity) in the population:As the degree of variability in the population increases, so too should the size of the sample increase. The ability of the researcher to take this into account is dependent upon knowledge of the population parameters.

Number of different variables (subgroups) to be examined:As the number of subgroups to be examined increases, so too should the size of the sample increase. For example, should a researcher wish to examine the differences between ethnicities for a given phenomenon, the sample must be large enough to allow for valid comparison between each ethnic group.

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Sampling ratio (sample size to population size):Generally speaking, the smaller the population, the larger the sampling ratio needed. For populations under 1,000, a minimum ratio of 30 percent (300 individuals) is advisable to ensure representativeness of the sample. For larger populations, such as a population of 10,000, a comparatively small minimum ratio of 10 percent (1,000) of individuals is required to ensure representativeness of the sample.

Response rate and oversampling:Are all the individuals in your sample likely to complete your questionnaire? If not, oversampling (sampling more individuals than would otherwise be necessary) may be required. Here the goal is to ensure that a given minimum raw count of respondents is met. While this is straightforward for a project using Simple Random Sampling, this can become increasingly complex as the number of variables to be examined grows, since the researcher must ensure that each critical subgroup attains the required response rate.

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Statistical analysis desired:Specific minimum sample sizes are required for some statistical procedures, particularly those involving the investigation of multiple variables.

Other Online Resources

(Video) CAMS6 Audiobook English Chapter 3 ACAMS Training

Sample Size Calculator (Raosoft)

Further Reading

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Nardi, P.M. (2003).Doing survey research: A guide to quantitative methods. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Neuman, W. L. (2007).Basics of social research: Qualitative and quantitative approaches(2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Suskie, L.A. (1996). Questionnaire survey research: What works (2nd ed.). Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research


How do you determine sample size for assessment? ›

Five steps to finding your sample size
  1. Define population size or number of people.
  2. Designate your margin of error.
  3. Determine your confidence level.
  4. Predict expected variance.
  5. Finalize your sample size.
Nov 25, 2021

What is the sample size for Clarke & Braun 2013? ›

It has previously been recommended that qualitative studies require a minimum sample size of at least 12 to reach data saturation (Clarke & Braun, 2013; Fugard & Potts, 2014; Guest, Bunce, & Johnson, 2006) Therefore, a sample of 13 was deemed sufficient for the qualitative analysis and scale of this study.

What is an appropriate sample size for program assessment? ›

A good maximum sample size is usually around 10% of the population, as long as this does not exceed 1000. For example, in a population of 5000, 10% would be 500. In a population of 200,000, 10% would be 20,000.

Is 30 respondents enough for a survey? ›

We generally recommend a panel size of 30 respondents for in-depth interviews if the study includes similar segments within the population. We suggest a minimum sample size of 10, but in this case, population integrity in recruiting is critical.

What are the 4 ways to determine the sample size? ›

There are many methods that researchers use to find the right sample size, but all of them can be boiled down into the following four steps:
  1. Step 1 Find out the size of the population. ...
  2. Step 2 Determine the margin of error. ...
  3. Step 3 Set confidence level. ...
  4. Step 4 Use a formula to find sample size.
Jul 14, 2022

Why is 30 the minimum sample size? ›

Why Is the Central Limit Theorem's Minimize Sample Size 30? A sample size of 30 is fairly common across statistics. A sample size of 30 often increases the confidence interval of your population data set enough to warrant assertions against your findings.


1. Medicine Grand Rounds: January 10, 2023
(Emory Department of Medicine)
2. Older Adult Workshop, March 2021 (Part 2 of 2)
(U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
3. CAMS6 Audiobook English Chapter 2 ACAMS Training
(CFRIT Revelation)
4. From Assessment to Planning and Resource Allocation
5. Colloquium An Institutional Effectiveness Look at ETSU's Undergraduate Mathematics Curriculum
(ETSU Online)
6. LBCC - SLO Survey Design - July 2009
(Long Beach City College)
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