Question
Asked 6th Nov, 2018

What is the permissible margin of error when computing a social research sample size?

I am conducting a research on use of social media to improve students' academic performance (qualitative research). I've got my confidence level, but not sure of the allowable margin of error in such research. I would like to know the maximum acceptable margin of error when computing the sample size?

Most recent answer

28th Apr, 2021
Jewel Das
Port City International University
is confidence interval 16.62% accepted.

Popular Answers (1)

20th Nov, 2018
Karen Bayne
Scion
It depends on how the research will be used. If it is an election poll or census, then margin of error would be expected to be very low; but for most social science studies, margin of error of 3-5 %, sometimes even 10% is fine if you want to deduce trends or infer results in an exploratory manner. I agree also that qualitative sample sizes are usually much lower, as it is about gathering depth of information. Dillman et al (2009) book "internet and mixed-mode surveys: The tailored Design Method" has a useful table on margin of error and sample sizes. Note that you don't get much gain after about a sample size of 1000 on a 3% margin of error; or after 385 for 5% margin of error; or only 95 for a 10% margin of error.
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All Answers (6)

7th Nov, 2018
Mariano Ruiz Espejo
Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia
Confidence levels used in social research can be any, but usually 95% or 99% is more frequent. With normal supposition such confidence level gives for itself the maximum error for interval estimation of a parameter.
1 Recommendation
7th Nov, 2018
David L Morgan
Portland State University
A typical specification would work with percentage from a Yes/No question, so you would have a statement such as: "I want to be 95% certain than my estimate is within X percent of the true value in the population." So, if you choose a 3% confidence interval, that would lead to a sample size where you have a 95% confidence level that your estimate was within plus or minus 3% of the true value. For this example, in a large population you would need a sample size of about 1,000.
But you say that you are doing qualitative research, and the samples there are usually so small that it doesn't make sense to think of them in terms of confidence intervals.
2 Recommendations
20th Nov, 2018
Karen Bayne
Scion
It depends on how the research will be used. If it is an election poll or census, then margin of error would be expected to be very low; but for most social science studies, margin of error of 3-5 %, sometimes even 10% is fine if you want to deduce trends or infer results in an exploratory manner. I agree also that qualitative sample sizes are usually much lower, as it is about gathering depth of information. Dillman et al (2009) book "internet and mixed-mode surveys: The tailored Design Method" has a useful table on margin of error and sample sizes. Note that you don't get much gain after about a sample size of 1000 on a 3% margin of error; or after 385 for 5% margin of error; or only 95 for a 10% margin of error.
9 Recommendations
26th Nov, 2020
Anup KC
SRM Institute of Science and Technology
Can you please attach reference documents on it.

Similar questions and discussions

Which method should I use to present the Mean of a 5-point Likert scale?
Question
88 answers
  • Amal MohammedAmal Mohammed
Hi everyone. I am working on my quantitative chapter of my thesis and I would like to ask you about handling close ended questions using 5-point Likert scale questionnaire. My questionnaire is looking at students’ perspective towards a course called (Intensive English as a foreign language).
I have been looking at literature and I find it more confusing when it comes to cell range. I came across two methods of Mean distribution of the findings.
First method:
To determine the minimum and the maximum length of the 5-point Likert type scale, the range is calculated by (5 − 1 = 4) then divided by five as it is the greatest value of the scale (4 ÷ 5 = 0.80). Afterwards, number one which is the least value in the scale was added in order to identify the maximum of this cell. The length of the cells is determined below:
  • From 1 to 1.80 represents (strongly disagree).
  • From 1.81 until 2.60 represents (do not agree).
  • From 2.61 until 3.40 represents (true to some extent).
  • From 3:41 until 4:20 represents (agree).
  • From 4:21 until 5:00 represents (strongly agree).
Second method is the traditional way:
  •  mean score from 0.01 to 1.00 is (strongly disagree);
  •  to 2.00 is (disagree);
  • from 2.01 until 3.00 is (neutral);
  • 3.01 until 4:00 is (agree);
  • mean score from 4.01 until 5.00 is (strongly agree)
My questions are:
1             Which method should I use to present findings?
2             When and why the first method is used?
My intention is to apply a descriptive analysis by presenting: Frequencies, Mean and Standard Deviation of the questions them the total mean of each theme.
I really appreciate your help in this manner.
Best regards,
Amal

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