From what I can gather from lists of "pros and cons" like this one, systematic sampling is roughly equivalent to simple random sampling when the list is randomly sorted. If not, it leads to sampling bias.

With this information, my conclusion would be that systematic sampling had a use before (pseudo)random numbers could be easily generated, but I can think of no practical use nowadays.

Are there situations where systematic sampling is still used? I am curious because it is usually included in all lists of sampling methods, but I'm unsure if it's just some sort of "historical inertia".

  • $\begingroup$ Some hints in the related questions: stats.stackexchange.com/questions/73741/… stats.stackexchange.com/questions/220998/… $\endgroup$ – Martin Modrák Jul 15 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ Can you please elaborate? I am not sure how the questions are related. Both obviously refer to situations where systematic sampling is being used (or at least considered), but I don't see any systematic sampling benefits over other sampling methods, nor can I conclude that systematic sampling is not useful from those two examples. $\endgroup$ – Narciandi Jul 15 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ You are correct, this is why i linked them in the comment and not as answer :-). I don't have a better answer. $\endgroup$ – Martin Modrák Jul 15 at 12:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Sampling at equally spaced intervals in time and/or space has many secondary advantages. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Jul 15 at 13:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In Earth and environmental sciences measuring at regular intervals across a transect or down a core is utterly standard. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Jul 15 at 16:31

Systematic sampling has the advantage of not always requiring a frame. Take for example this scenario: you want to survey people at your amusement park about their favourite ride. Your systematic sample could be surveying every fifth person to enter the park until your sample is filled.


In a prospective, randomized medical study, you actually enroll patients to the trial in a non-random fashion. The panel of eligible participants is actually a moving window, and selectively excluding people from the sample just prolongs the study.

Typically all individuals with a condition will be invited to participate, and they are screened and enrolled on a first-come-first-serve basis until target recruitment is achieved. It's known the sample exhibits some issues of prevalent case bias. However, if randomization is performed, time with condition is approximately balanced between treatment arms, and doesn't bias the analyses.

So this example contributes to a "no" response to the question. When SRS can be done, it is preferred in all respects. But cost, time, and other considerations don't always permit. In fact, complex sampling procedures can only be said to make the sample less random yet more efficient. This extends all the way to the above example where the sampling is entirely deterministic.

  • $\begingroup$ Would you say this process is actually systematic sampling or rather some sort of convenience sampling? $\endgroup$ – Narciandi Jul 16 at 9:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.