# Does it matter how you sample a population?

I have a well-mixed vat containing an infinite number of marbles. There is an infinite amount of marbles in the vat, but they only come in some unknown but finite number of varieties: $$\mathcal{V} = \{v_{1},v_{2},v_{3},...,v_{k}\}$$ $k$ is unknown, and for $i\neq j$, drawing a $v_i$-type marble might be more likely than drawing a $v_j$-type marble.

In an experiment, a machine samples the vat using some unknown procedure. The machine reports a set $X$ describing $q\leq k$ varieties of marbles from its sample: $$X \subseteq \mathcal{V}; \quad |X|=q$$

Trials of this experiment are repeated ($q$ is fixed across trials) and we get a sequence of subsets of $\mathcal{V}$, $(X_1,X_2,\dots)$.

The only other things we know are:

• trials are independent and identical
• the machine reports the top $q$ most frequently occurring varieties in its sample

We don't know precisely how the machine samples marbles. It could pick a large number of marbles, then report the $q$ most frequent. Alternatively, it could keep picking up marbles until there are $q$ varieties. There are other things it could do too.

Will the distribution of our trials $(X_1,X_2,\dots)$ be affected by the machine's sampling procedure?

• +1 This is a great question because it appreciates that there's more to random sampling than some vague form of arbitrariness or lack of knowledge about the sampling procedure.
– whuber
Jun 27, 2012 at 20:31
• The sampling rule certainly will matter. Otherwise, consider this procedure: the machine, at every trial, always selects a single marble of type 1 (first variety). Each draw will be independent and have identical distribution (trivially), and you will get q = 1, a perfectly non-helpful result. Dec 17, 2015 at 3:36

Suppose there are $3$ types and the chances of each type are $1/2$, $1/4$, and $1/4$, respectively. Suppose you are choosing $2$ types of marbles.
Suppose after choosing a marble, you ignore the rest of the kind. The chance you get $\lbrace v_2,v_3\rbrace$ is $2*1/4*1/3 = 1/6$.
Suppose you reject pairs with repeated types. The chance of $\lbrace v_2,v_3\rbrace$ is $$\frac{2*1/4*1/4}{2*1/4*1/4 + 2*1/2*1/4 + 2*1/2*1/4} = \frac{1/8}{1/8 + 1/4 + 1/4} = 1/5.$$
Two of the methods you mention are equivalent. Ignoring the rest of its kind after picking a marble is the same as picking until you have $q$ different types.