Statistics How To

Sampling Frame / Sample Frame Definition

Statistics Definitions > Sampling frame

What is a Sampling Frame?

A sampling frame is a list of all the items in your population. It’s a complete list of everyone or everything you want to study. The difference between a population and a sampling frame is that the population is general and the frame is specific. For example, the population could be “People who live in Jacksonville, Florida.” The frame would name ALL of those people, from Adrian Abba to Felicity Zappa. A couple more examples:

Population: People in STAT101.
Sampling Frame: Adrian, Anna, Bob, Billy, Howie, Jess, Jin, Kate, Kaley, Lin, Manuel, Norah, Paul, Roger, Stu, Tim, Vanessa, Yasmin.

Population: Birds that are pink.
Sampling Frame:

  • Brown-capped Rosy-Finch.
  • White-winged Crossbill.
  • American Flamingo.
  • Roseate Spoonbill.
  • Black Rosy-Finch.
  • Cassin’s Finch.

When you draw a sample in statistics, you need a list of items to draw the sample from. Take a very simple population: bingo balls numbered 1 to 99. You frame would be a list of all those balls: 1 , 2, 3…99. Once you have your list, you can go ahead and draw your sample.

A sampling frame can be a list of just about anything. For example, the population could be “All infectious diseases in the United States.” The frame is below:
sampling frame

Qualities of a Good Sampling Frame

You can’t just use any list you come across! Care must be taken to make sure your sampling frame is adequate for your needs. For example, according to Alaska University, a good sample frame for a project on living conditions would:

  1. Include all individuals in the target population.
  2. Exclude all individuals not in the target population.
  3. Includes accurate information that can be used to contact selected individuals.

Other general factors that you would want to make sure you have:

  • An unique identifier for each member. This could be a simple numerical identifier (i.e. from 1 to 1000). Check to make sure there are no duplicates in the frame.
  • A logical organization to the list. For example, put them in alphabetical order.
  • Up to date information. This may need to be periodically checked (i.e. for address changes).

In some cases, it might be impossible, or very difficult, to get a sampling frame. For example, getting a list of prostitutes in your city isn’t likely (mostly because of the fact that most prostitutes won’t want to be found). Sometimes, techniques like snowball sampling must be used to make up for the lack of sampling frame. Snowball sampling is where you find one person (or a few people) for your survey or experiment. You then ask them to find someone else who would be willing to participate. Then that person finds someone else, and so on, until you have enough people for your needs.

Sampling Frame vs. Sample Space

A sampling frame is a list of things that you draw a sample from. A sample space is a list of all possible outcomes for an experiment. For example, you might have a sampling frame of names of people in a certain town for a survey you’re going to be conducting on family size. The sample space is all possible outcomes from your survey: 1 person, 2 people, 3 people…10 or more.

Carl-Erik Särndal; Bengt Swensson; Jan Wretman (2003). Model assisted survey sampling. Springer. pp. 9–12. ISBN 978-0-387-40620-6. Retrieved December 28 2015.


If you prefer an online interactive environment to learn R and statistics, this free R Tutorial by Datacamp is a great way to get started. If you're are somewhat comfortable with R and are interested in going deeper into Statistics, try this Statistics with R track.

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Sampling Frame / Sample Frame Definition was last modified: October 15th, 2017 by Stephanie

10 thoughts on “Sampling Frame / Sample Frame Definition

  1. Phillip Makgoba

    Thank you very much. Your explanation resolved my question about sampling frame. My question is answered clearly. Thank you.

  2. Dane

    Clear and concise answer. I was not clear on what it is or how to do it until I read your explanation. Thank you .

  3. Fesili Liu

    Thank you. I am I my late 50s and am self studying maths to help weak students in maths. The definition has been helpful.

  4. mama gee

    Pls sir, having understood what is meant by sampling frame,sir, i still want you to help me out in getting the sampling frame of my area of study. My area of study is agro-allied flour mills and my topic is organisational dissents and it’s influence on workplace performance.

  5. Andale Post author

    Sounds like your sampling frame would be all possible “organisational dissents” in agro-allied flour mills (though I’m not sure what an organisational dissent is…)

  6. Vuvu

    By the way, I will be doing screening on hiv positive individuals who are on art and on club. Now the clinic has 25 clubs and each club have 25 individuals. ….! How do I count the ryt number of clubs to be randomly selected and represent the total population without any selection errors? Please help..

  7. kķkkk

    having understond what a sampling frame is i would wish that you help me out to identify the samplingv frame in my research ……the study on effectiveness of mmm institution in accomodating physically challeged students

  8. Andale Post author

    Who are you sampling from? e.g. all people in the institution, all teachers, all physically challenged students…?