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Sampling Techniques and Considerations for Data Collection

Let's explore the different sampling techniques that can be used in a conflict setting.

In conflict settings, collecting accurate and representative data is crucial for understanding the health and social dynamics of affected populations. However, conducting research in these environments poses unique challenges, including security risks, population displacement, and limited resources. This article explores sampling techniques and considerations for data collection in conflict settings, emphasizing the need for representative samples while ensuring the safety and well-being of participants. 1. Cluster Sampling: Cluster sampling is a commonly used technique in conflict settings due to logistical and security constraints. In this method, researchers divide the target population into clusters (e.g., villages, camps, or neighborhoods) and randomly select a subset of clusters to include in the study. All individuals within the selected clusters are then included as participants. Example: In a conflict-affected region, researchers aim to assess the prevalence of malnutrition among internally displaced children in various camps. They divide the camps into clusters based on their geographical locations. They randomly select a representative number of clusters and include all eligible children within each selected cluster. This approach ensures a diverse sample from different areas, capturing variations in living conditions and access to resources.

Consideration: Ensure that the selected clusters represent the diversity of the population and consider factors such as geographical distribution, ethnic or religious diversity, and accessibility to services. 2. Random Sampling: Random sampling involves randomly selecting individuals from the target population to participate in the study. This technique helps to ensure a representative sample and minimize bias. However, implementing random sampling in conflict settings can be challenging due to security concerns and lack of reliable population data. Consideration: Collaborate with local authorities or organizations to identify appropriate sampling frames or databases that can be used to select participants randomly. Adapt the random sampling method based on the context and available resources. Example: Researchers in a conflict zone want to investigate the mental health status of war-affected individuals. They collaborate with local organizations to obtain a list of displaced families. Using a random number generator, they select households from the list and interview one family member in each selected household. This random sampling technique allows for a representative sample and helps ensure that each household has an equal chance of being included.

  1. Snowball Sampling: Snowball sampling is often employed in conflict settings where it is difficult to access or identify participants. In this method, initial participants are recruited through existing networks or key informants, who then refer additional participants. This sampling technique can be effective in reaching hidden or marginalized populations. Consideration: Ensure that the initial participants and key informants are representative of the target population. Maintain confidentiality and privacy during the recruitment process to protect the safety of participants. Example: In a conflict-affected area where human trafficking is prevalent, researchers aim to understand the experiences and challenges faced by survivors. They initiate the study by collaborating with a trusted local organization that provides support to trafficking survivors. They interview a few survivors referred by the organization, and then ask these survivors to recommend other survivors they may know. This snowball sampling method helps reach a hidden and hard-to-reach population, ensuring a diverse sample of survivors.
  2. Stratified Sampling: Stratified sampling involves dividing the target population into subgroups or strata based on specific characteristics (e.g., age, gender, location). A sample is then randomly selected from each stratum, ensuring representation from different groups within the population. Consideration: Identify relevant stratification criteria that are important for the research objectives and consider the availability of data or information to create the strata. Ensure that each stratum is proportionally represented in the sample to reflect the diversity of the population.


Elfil M, Negida A. Sampling methods in Clinical Research; an Educational Review. Emerg (Tehran). 2017;5(1):e52. Epub 2017 Jan 14. PMID: 28286859; PMCID: PMC5325924.

Suresh K, Thomas SV, Suresh G. Design, data analysis and sampling techniques for clinical research. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2011 Oct;14(4):287-90. doi: 10.4103/0972-2327.91951. PMID: 22346019; PMCID: PMC3271469.

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Conducting Health Research in Conflict Settings: Navigating Research Challenges for Impactful Evidence

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