Selecting a representative sample of appropriate size

Two basic components of subject selection are sample size and sample representativeness. The latter should be selected in a well-controlled manner.

A common question is: 'What is the ideal size of the sample?' There is no fixed answer but it must be adequate to produce statistically meaningful results.

Recruitment of patients is a particular skill and often hard work, but it is easier if the researcher has a large pool of patients with whom he or she enjoys a good relationship. A useful rule is to aim to approach 3n patients if you wish to work with a sample size of n. Some guidelines for choosing the sample size are: H

• the more the individuals in the population differ, the larger the required sample

• the more planned comparisons, the larger the size

• larger sample sizes allow detection of smaller differences

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