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Calculating the sample size n

If researchers desire a specific margin of error, then they can use the error bound formula to calculate the required sample size.

The error bound formula for a population proportion is

  • E B P = ( z α 2 ) ( p q n )
  • Solving for n gives you an equation for the sample size.
  • n = ( z α 2 ) 2 ( p q ) E B P 2

Suppose a mobile phone company wants to determine the current percentage of customers aged 50+ who use text messaging on their cell phones. How many customers aged 50+ should the company survey in order to be 90% confident that the estimated (sample) proportion is within three percentage points of the true population proportion of customers aged 50+ who use text messaging on their cell phones.

From the problem, we know that EBP = 0.03 (3%=0.03) and z α 2 z 0.05 = 1.645 because the confidence level is 90%.

However, in order to find n , we need to know the estimated (sample) proportion p ′. Remember that q ′ = 1 – p ′. But, we do not know p ′ yet. Since we multiply p ′ and q ′ together, we make them both equal to 0.5 because p q ′ = (0.5)(0.5) = 0.25 results in the largest possible product. (Try other products: (0.6)(0.4) = 0.24; (0.3)(0.7) = 0.21; (0.2)(0.8) = 0.16 and so on). The largest possible product gives us the largest n . This gives us a large enough sample so that we can be 90% confident that we are within three percentage points of the true population proportion. To calculate the sample size n , use the formula and make the substitutions.

n = z 2 p q E B P 2 gives n = 1.645 2 ( 0.5 ) ( 0.5 ) 0.03 2 = 751.7

Round the answer to the next higher value. The sample size should be 752 cell phone customers aged 50+ in order to be 90% confident that the estimated (sample) proportion is within three percentage points of the true population proportion of all customers aged 50+ who use text messaging on their cell phones.

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Try it

Suppose an internet marketing company wants to determine the current percentage of customers who click on ads on their smartphones. How many customers should the company survey in order to be 90% confident that the estimated proportion is within five percentage points of the true population proportion of customers who click on ads on their smartphones?

271 customers should be surveyed.Check the Real Estate section in your local

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References

Jensen, Tom. “Democrats, Republicans Divided on Opinion of Music Icons.” Public Policy Polling. Available online at http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/Day2MusicPoll.pdf (accessed July 2, 2013).

Madden, Mary, Amanda Lenhart, Sandra Coresi, Urs Gasser, Maeve Duggan, Aaron Smith, and Meredith Beaton. “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy.” PewInternet, 2013. Available online at http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teens-Social-Media-And-Privacy.aspx (accessed July 2, 2013).

Prince Survey Research Associates International. “2013 Teen and Privacy Management Survey.” Pew Research Center: Internet and American Life Project. Available online at http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Questionnaire/2013/Methods%20and%20Questions_Teens%20and%20Social%20Media.pdf (accessed July 2, 2013).

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Source:  OpenStax, Introductory statistics. OpenStax CNX. May 06, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11562/1.18
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