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Sociologists typically use two sampling techniques: those based on probability and those that are not.They can generate different kinds of samples using both techniques.
A snowball sample is one in which the researcher collects data on the few members of the target population he or she can locate and then asks those individuals to provide the information needed to locate other members of that population.
For example, if a researcher wanted to interview undocumented immigrants from Mexico, she might interview a few undocumented individuals that she knows or can locate.
The probability model is a technique wherein samples are gathered in a way that gives all the individuals in the population an equal chance of being selected.
Many consider this to be the more methodologically rigorous approach to sampling because it eliminates social biases that could shape the research sample.
Four kinds of samples may be created with the non-probability model.
Relying on available subjects is a risky model that requires a great deal of caution on the part of the researcher.
For this reason, convenience samples are commonly used in the early or pilot stages of research, before a larger research project is launched.
Though this method can be useful, the researcher will not be able to use the results from a convenience sample to generalize about a wider population.
Afterward, she would rely on those subjects to help locate more undocumented individuals.
This process continues until the researcher has all the interviews she needs, or until all contacts have been exhausted.