Convenience sampling is a method of non-probability sampling that involves the participants being drawn from a close population group. It is the option that’s most useful for pilot testing. It may be referred to as accidental, opportunity, or grab sampling by some researchers, instructors, or participants.
Data gathering with this method comes from people that are the easiest to reach or contact. If someone has ever tried to get you to take a survey while you shop at a mall, then that action was a form of convenience sampling.
No criteria are in place for this sampling method beyond the willingness and availability of people to participate in the work. It doesn’t require a random sample since the only criteria to meet is an agreement to become part of the study.
Several convenience sampling advantages and disadvantages are worth reviewing when looking at this form of data gathering.
List of the Advantages of Convenience Sampling
1. Convenience sampling is an affordable way to gather data.
It doesn’t take much effort to start a convenience sampling effort. You can post a survey link to a social media page, ask questions in a public space, or have a poll in which people can vote online. That’s why it is one of the most affordable options of information gathering that exists right now. Even if you want to rent a contact list to have more specificity with your contact efforts, the price is usually less than $1,000.
If you need to complete convenience sampling for a project, assignment, or professional need, then it may not cost anything but time and the supplies needed to have people fill out a survey or answer questions.
2. It is useful as an intervention to correct dissatisfaction.
Convenience samples are an excellent way to intervene when someone had an unsatisfactory experience with a company. People are hesitant to confront poor service in person, but they will often take a survey or answer questions to provide information about a negative experience. Preserving anonymity while providing a possible incentive, like a drawing for a gift card, can help to turn adverse energy into something more positive.
The feedback companies receive in these circumstances can help them to improve consumer experiences in the future to avoid additional problems. Something as simple as placing a survey request on a receipt can help you make use of this advantage.
3. This sampling method provides a wealth of qualitative information.
Convenience sampling offers a way to receive specific feedback from individual perspectives. You can approach people about specific topics to collect needed data in just minutes when using this method. Surveys can even get tailors to help provide more details about an individual’s demographic profile so that it becomes possible to build generalizations about a larger group in the future.
That’s why some will argue that a benefit of convenience sampling includes accurate correlations. It explores the relationship between variables while gathering information about specific individuals and their demographic groups.
4. This research method saves time when gathering data.
Convenience sampling involves speed and convenience. You don’t need to research any demographic groups or find pain points that require a value proposition to solve. This work wants to find specific feedback points or data on specific subjects to help gain new perspectives about products, services, or ideas. Then the information can get reviewed for validity, applied as necessary, and items updated based on the results achieved.
Most willing participants will complete a convenience sampling questionnaire or survey in under ten minutes. Even if you decide to take an interview-based approach,
5. The research process is easier with convenience sampling.
When researchers don’t have a need to obtain accurate sampling, then the grab method allows them to collect data before moving on to the other aspects of their study. The usual approach taken with this method involves the creation of a questionnaire that gets distributed to the targeted group. Then researchers can use this method to collect their information in less than a day, free from worry because accurate representation isn’t necessary. That means it a lot easier to analyze the info instead of worrying about participant selection and interviews.
6. The data is immediately available when using this method.
Almost all forms of convenience sampling involve collecting data from the on-hand population. That means the information is readily available for the researcher for collection. It is not usually necessary to travel long distances or approach specific demographics to get the info needed to further a research project. Researchers just pull whoever is willing to participate from the closest physical location or through their website.
This advantage makes it much easier for researchers to meet their data quotas quickly. It even allows for the completion of multiple studies simultaneously or in an expeditious manner since one participant can provide data on multiple subjects in just a few minutes when using this method.
7. Limited rules exist on how the data should be gathered.
Convenience sampling is quite easy to carry out for most researchers. Although there can be rules and stipulations put onto this process to collect data from specific demographics, typically few rules are in place that govern how to gather the information. That makes it much easier for someone to become a willing participant in the work. It only takes a few minutes of time to get rich info about specific topics.
That’s why it tends to be the preferred method of data gathering, even when scientific studies are under consideration. Only 5% of the published works in the last decade used probability sampling instead of the convenience method.
8. Notations about potential bias can improve the validity of the work.
When researchers decide to use convenience sampling, then they often describe how their data collection methods would differ from an ideal, randomly selected sample. This step is necessary to describe the people who might get left out from the selection process since they may not be as easy to contact for this information gathering work.
Although this advantage doesn’t change the fact that over-representation can exist in the info, it does give researchers the opportunity to describe the possible effects of a population sample.
List of the Disadvantages of Convenience Sampling
1. A convenience sample doesn’t provide a representative result.
The information you receive from a convenience sample doesn’t reflect the way a generalized population group feels about anything specific. Even if you work with a large group of people to collect a massive amount of data, you cannot extract any generalities from the specificities given with an answer. That means the feedback you receive is useful from an individualized standpoint, but it cannot offer any information about an entire group of people.
The concerns from this disadvantage often involve over-representation, but there can also be issues with under-representation with convenience sampling. Since there isn’t a feasible way to determine if either circumstance exists, there is a level of uncertainty in the information that will never go away.
2. It is easier to provide false data with a convenience sample.
The average person doesn’t want to be bothered when they are shopping, having fun, or trying to run errands. Engaging someone in these circumstances creates a higher risk of receiving inaccurate data. People will say what they feel is necessary to extract themselves from that situation. Although you can get pieces of authentic feedback, it is up to the researcher to determine if the information is useful.
If the researcher determines that accurate information is false, then the exclusion of that data will adversely influence the results of the convenience sampling. This disadvantage applies if false information gets included because it is believed to be true.
3. Some researchers don’t understand the specificity of convenience sampling.
Although media outlets don’t typically report the results of convenience sampling as a demographic reflection, some organizations will report this information internally or through marketing as proof of concept materials. If there isn’t a description of the methodology used to gather data, then trusting its reliability shouldn’t be the first priority.
If researchers take specific feedback as a demographic representation, then it can lead to decision-making circumstances that lead people and organizations in the wrong direction. That’s why this method is useful for specific information points more than general characteristics.
4. It is challenging to replicate the results of convenience samples.
Because a convenience sample literally grabs willing participants from nearby, it is impossible to replicate the circumstances of each question. That’s why there can be dramatic differences in the results of different efforts, even when the same questions get asked by researchers. Each person has a unique set of priorities and perspectives that cannot be predicted since there isn’t a qualification standard beyond agreeability with this process.
This disadvantage can even apply when the same researchers contact the same individual with the same questions on a different day. How a person thinks and feels in any given moment is a reflection of their environment. If someone is having a stressful day at work after a sleepless night, their responses will be different than they would be on a day without those elements in their life.
5. Researcher bias can enter into the sampling technique.
Researchers that perform convenience sampling soon find out that the average person doesn’t want to speak with them or fill out an online survey. They begin to look for commonalities that let them approach someone comfortably with a high likelihood of success. That means a bias begins to enter into the data because only certain types of individuals receive an opportunity to become an agreeable participant instead of approaching the situation randomly.
Because the bias of a convenience sample cannot be measured, any inferences based on the information can only be about the group of people involved in the work. If researchers outsource this task, then they have zero control over this issue.
6. Convenience sampling does not identify subgroup differences.
Researchers can structure a convenience sampling effort to identify subgroups within their targeted population area. What their data cannot pick out are the differences that exist between the multiple subgroups. This insufficient power can lead to false estimations or generalizations about particular demographics because it only looks at the individual feedback offered at the time of information collection.
Because the convenience method asks people questions about their subgroup instead of identifying them before conducting research, willing participants can provide misleading information about their presence in a specific demographic.
7. This research method has a significant problem with dependence.
Dependence in convenience sampling means that the sample items have connections to each other in some way. This issue creates interference problems with statistical analysis. A majority of hypothesis tests, including the chi-square and t-test, have an underlying assumption of random selection. Since this research method can’t provide that outcome, the p-values produced by the samples become quite misleading in most circumstances.
The best way to reduce bias in convenience sampling is to use it with probability sampling as it provides a measurement parameter that wouldn’t be available otherwise. It is also essential to avoid judgment when conducting research.
Convenience sampling tends to be at its highest levels of usefulness during the exploration stage of research. If a brand or business needs to collect pilot data to identify or address shortcomings, then the feedback this approach provides can provide access to information that may not get shared with them otherwise.
The application of convenience sampling is the easiest when comparing it to the other sampling methods. It is also vulnerable to selection bias and other influences that go beyond the control of the researchers. That means there is a high level of sampling errors that reduce the credibility of the data.
These convenience sampling advantages and disadvantages provide an overview of this qualitative research effort. It would be ideal to test the entire population to gather results, but that work is almost impossible when trying to include each person. Since this method is fast and inexpensive, it tends to be the preferred method of collecting data today.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.