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First, let's look at the results of our sampling efforts.

When we sample, the units that we sample -- usually people -- supply us with one or more responses. In this sense, a response is a specific measurement value that a sampling unit supplies.

In the figure, the person is responding to a survey instrument and gives a response of '4'.

When we look across the responses that we get for our entire sample, we use a statistic. There are a wide variety of statistics we can use -- mean, median, mode, and so on. In this example, we see that the mean or average for the sample is 3. But the reason we sample is so that we might get an estimate for the population we sampled from.

If we could, we would much prefer to measure the entire population. If you measure the entire population and calculate a value like a mean or average, we don't refer to this as a statistic, we call it a parameter of the population.

The Sampling Distribution So how do we get from our sample statistic to an estimate of the population parameter?

A crucial midway concept you need to understand is the sampling distribution. In order to understand it, you have to be able and willing to do a thought experiment. Imagine that instead of just taking a single sample like we do in a typical study, you took three independent samples of the same population.

And furthermore, imagine that for each of your three samples, you collected a single response and computed a single statistic, say, the mean of the response.

Even though all three samples came from the same population, you wouldn't expect to get the exact same statistic from each. They would differ slightly just due to the random "luck of the draw" or to the natural fluctuations or vagaries of drawing a sample.

But you would expect that all three samples would yield a similar statistical estimate because they were drawn from the same population. Now, for the leap of imagination!

Imagine that you did an infinite number of samples from the same population and computed the average for each one. If you plotted them on a histogram or bar graph you should find that most of them converge on the same central value and that you get fewer and fewer samples that have averages farther away up or down from that central value.

In other words, the bar graph would be well described by the bell curve shape that is an indication of a "normal" distribution in statistics. The distribution of an infinite number of samples of the same size as the sample in your study is known as the sampling distribution.

We don't ever actually construct a sampling distribution. You're not paying attention! Because to construct it we would have to take an infinite number of samples and at least the last time I checked, on this planet infinite is not a number we know how to reach.

So why do we even talk about a sampling distribution? Now that's a good question! Because we need to realize that our sample is just one of a potentially infinite number of samples that we could have taken.

When we keep the sampling distribution in mind, we realize that while the statistic we got from our sample is probably near the center of the sampling distribution because most of the samples would be there we could have gotten one of the extreme samples just by the luck of the draw.

If we take the average of the sampling distribution -- the average of the averages of an infinite number of samples -- we would be much closer to the true population average -- the parameter of interest.

So the average of the sampling distribution is essentially equivalent to the parameter. But what is the standard deviation of the sampling distribution OK, never had statistics? There are any number of places on the web where you can learn about them or even just brush up if you've gotten rusty.

This isn't one of them. I'm going to assume that you at least know what a standard deviation is, or that you're capable of finding out relatively quickly. The standard deviation of the sampling distribution tells us something about how different samples would be distributed.

In statistics it is referred to as the standard error so we can keep it separate in our minds from standard deviations.

Go get a cup of coffee and come back in ten minutes OK, let's try once more A standard deviation is the spread of the scores around the average in a single sample. The standard error is the spread of the averages around the average of averages in a sampling distribution.

Sampling Error In sampling contexts, the standard error is called sampling error.Download free sample letter of recommendation (LOR) for MS in the US. Also learn about whom to get LOR from, format and writing tips for your recommenders.

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Step-by-step explaining how to write a reflection paper with topic ideas and a sample essay. The free sample eulogies submitted through this page are here to help others. You'll find them below the submission form further down. (Or click the link above to jump straight there.) This is a growing collection of funeral speeches written by people from all over the world and yet, just like yourself.

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