What would you consider to be the elements of an ethical sampling plan?
The ethical focus of a sampling plan changes depending on the focus of research. Suhonen, Stolt, Katajisto, & Leino-Kilpi (2015) adresses the ethical approach of sample size. Suhonen et al. mentions that although a small sample size reduces the strength of research there is lots of use for results that advance care. Further into the article Suhonen et al. flips the scenario and states that a larger ethical concern would be using a sample size that is unecessarly too large creating more burden for more people. These simple statements help broaden the view on the ethical focus of sampling plans. Size, both too small and too large, as mentioned above, is a priority element of sampling plans. Confidentiality and consent for sampling must be maintained to increase validity. Who will be included and who will be excluded in the study must be considered to increase the strength and ethical consideration of results. The choice of sampling technique is determined by the research question as well. For example, are you looking at a specific patient diagnosis, data, or institution?You should ask yourself why you are including or excluding items/populations? Are you using convenience sampling because of ease? Being aware of these questions, as well as many others, will reduce prejudices or bias that the researcher may introduce, and is another way to ensure that the project remains ethical.
Next one must look at the sample size. According to Suhonen, Stolt, Katajisto, & Leino-Kilpi (2015) small sample size is unethical because it may lack the ability to determine statistical significance and generalizability to the population at large. If the sample size is too small and the research findings not clinically significant was the process ethically a waste of time for the participants who may have experienced potential side-effects or harm?On the other hand, when using too large of a sample size is the opposite also true that more people were exposed to possible side-effects or harm then needed to be?Sampling in research is necessary to draw generalizations that are representative of the population as a whole. It is unrealistic to obtain data any other way.
The researcher must look at themselves objectively and place any biases, prejudices, and pre-conceptions aside. Only then, with meticulous attention given to the development of every step of a sampling plan, can an unbiased and equitable plan be achieved.
Would it be possible to create a sampling plan that is equitable for all patients?
The possibility of one sampling plan to be equitable for all patients seems to be contradictory in of itself. To create an ethical sampling plan that is fair and impartial requires a plan that is focused to the specifics needs of the study and patients. As mentioned above, size of a sample plan changes to fit the specific needs of a study. The required size of a sample is evaluated and determined by a professional. Removing the validity of professional advice reduces the strength of a study drastically.
Suhonen, R., Stolt, M., Katajisto, J., & Leino-Kilpi, H. (2015). Review of sampling, sample and data collection procedures in nursing research – An example of research on ethical climate as perceived by nurses. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 29(4), 843-858. doi: 10.1111/scs.12194