What is a Sampling Unit?

Sampling Unit

Share This...

Sampling Unit

A sampling unit is the individual element or set of elements considered for selection in the sampling process. It is the basic unit that is selected from the population, and it’s the unit about which information is collected and data are analyzed.

The nature and definition of a sampling unit will vary based on the research question, the population being studied, and the sampling method being used. The sampling unit should be clearly defined to ensure that the sampling procedure is systematic and that every intended unit has an equal chance of being selected (assuming a simple random sampling method).

Example of a Sampling Unit

Let’s delve into an example related to public health.

Scenario: Studying the Effects of Air Pollution on Respiratory Health in a City

Suppose you are an environmental health researcher interested in understanding how air pollution affects the respiratory health of people living in a large metropolitan city.

Goal: To assess the association between air pollution levels and the prevalence of respiratory issues among city residents.

Sampling Units in Different Contexts:

  • Data on Air Pollution:
    • Sampling Unit: Each air quality monitoring station set up around the city.
    • Rationale: Different parts of the city might have varying pollution levels, possibly due to industrial areas, heavy traffic zones, or green zones. Thus, collecting data from multiple stations can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the air quality in the city.
  • Data on Respiratory Health:
    • Sampling Unit: Individual city resident.
    • Rationale: To assess respiratory health, you would likely need to gather data like lung function tests, medical histories, or questionnaires on respiratory symptoms, all of which would be specific to each individual.


  • Air Quality Monitoring:
    • Deploy or utilize existing air quality monitoring stations throughout the city. Each station measures pollutants regularly (e.g., daily or hourly).
    • Over a set period, say one year, you collect data on various pollutants like PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen dioxide, etc., from each monitoring station.
  • Health Data Collection:
    • Using a random sampling method, select a sample of residents from the city.
    • Each selected individual (i.e., each sampling unit) undergoes lung function tests, and you also gather data on respiratory symptoms, history of respiratory diseases, and other potential confounders like smoking habits or occupational exposures.


With data collected based on the defined sampling units, you can now examine correlations and relationships between air pollution levels from different parts of the city and the respiratory health of residents. For instance, you might want to see if people from areas with higher PM2.5 levels have worse lung function scores compared to those from areas with lower pollution levels.

In this example, defining the sampling unit clearly for both air quality and health data ensures that the collected data is systematic, relevant, and can answer the research question effectively.

Other Posts You'll Like...

Want to Pass as Fast as Possible?

(and avoid failing sections?)

Watch one of our free "Study Hacks" trainings for a free walkthrough of the SuperfastCPA study methods that have helped so many candidates pass their sections faster and avoid failing scores...