I am a stats newbie, so apologies in advance if I'm asking a braindead question. I have searched for answers to my question, but I find that many of the topics are either too specific, or quickly go beyond what I currently comprehend.
I have some simulation work that includes large datasets which become infeasible to simulate exhaustively. For the smallest of my datasets, an exhaustive run presents the following distribution of results from a total of 9180900 tests.
- 0 7183804
- 1 1887089
- 2 105296
- 3 4571
- 4 140
What the numbers mean does not matter; what matters is that the larger datasets I have can stretch into billions of tests, and become far too time consuming to run. I need to constrain the workload.
I feel I ought to be able to sample from the full set of tests to derive a distribution for the sample, and infer (within some bounds) that the results of an exhaustive simulation would exhibit roughly the same distribution. There is no bias inherent in the tests which are run, so uniformly randomly choosing inputs ought to provide a valid sample.
What I do not yet understand is how I should go about selecting my sample size. In particular, the distribution exhibits a strange tail, and I fear that sampling too small will lose the lower frequencies. (The 140 occurrences of '4' account for only 0.0015% of the population!)
So, my question is, what is the best way of calculating a sample size with which I can assert some level of goodness in my results?
Or, am I asking the wrong question?