The population includes all objects of interest whereas the sample is only a portion of the population. Parameters are associated with populations and statistics with samples. Parameters are usually denoted using Greek letters (mu, sigma) while statistics are usually denoted using Roman letters (x, s).

There are several reasons why we don't work with populations. They are usually large, and it is often impossible to get data for every object we're studying. Sampling does not usually occur without cost, and the more items surveyed, the larger the cost.

We compute statistics, and use them to estimate parameters. The computation is the first part of the statistics course (Descriptive Statistics) and the estimation is the second part (Inferential Statistics)

Discrete variables are usually obtained by counting. There are a finite or countable number of choices available with discrete data. You can't have 2.63 people in the room.

Continuous variables are usually obtained by measuring. Length, weight, and time are all examples of continuous variables. Since continuous variables are real numbers, we usually round them. This implies a boundary depending on the number of decimal places. For example: 64 is really anything 63.5 <= x < 64.5. Likewise, if there are two decimal places, then 64.03 is really anything 63.025 <= x < 63.035. Boundaries always have one more decimal place than the data and end in a 5.

There are four levels of measurement: Nominal, Ordinal, Interval, and Ratio. These go from lowest level to highest level. Data is classified according to the highest level which it fits. Each additional level adds something the previous level didn't have.

- Nominal is the lowest level. Only names are meaningful here.
- Ordinal adds an order to the names.
- Interval adds meaningful differences, but there is no starting point (0).
- Ratio adds a zero so that ratios are meaningful.

There are five types of sampling: Random, Systematic, Convenience, Cluster, and Stratified.

- Random sampling is analogous to putting everyone's name into a hat and drawing out several names. Each element in the population has an equal chance of occurring. While this is the preferred way of sampling, it is often difficult to do. It requires that a complete list of every element in the population be obtained. Computer generated lists are often used with random sampling. You can generate random numbers using the TI82 calculator.
- Systematic sampling is easier to do than random sampling. In systematic sampling, the list of
elements is "counted off". That is, every
*k*th element is taken. This is similar to lining everyone up and numbering off "1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; etc". When done numbering, all people numbered 4 would be used. - Convenience sampling is very easy to do, but it's probably the worst technique to use. In convenience sampling, readily available data is used. That is, the first people the surveyor runs into.
- Cluster sampling is accomplished by dividing the population into groups -- usually geographically. These groups are called clusters or blocks. The clusters are randomly selected, and each element in the selected clusters are used.
- Stratified sampling also divides the population into groups called strata. However, this time it is by some characteristic, not geographically. For instance, the population might be separated into males and females. A sample is taken from each of these strata using either random, systematic, or convenience sampling.

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James Jones