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Inferential Analysis: From Sample to Population

Inferential analysis is used to generalize the results obtained from a random (probability) sample back to the population from which the sample was drawn. This analysis is only required when: a sample is drawn by a random procedure; and the response rate is very high. Hence, this type of analysis is not appropriate when: non-probability methods of selection are used; the response rate is less than, say, 85 per cent, unless independent evidence is available to indicate that the sample is reasonably representative; and the data are obtained from a population. There are some technical concepts here that will be explained in due course. However, I have made these assertions at the beginning because there is a great deal of confusion in the literature about when inferential analysis should be used in social research, with the result that it is often applied inappropriately and unnecessarily. There are a number of ...

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