What Is Random Selection?

(Last Updated On: January 17, 2019)

Random selection refers to a process that researchers use to pick participants for a study. When using this method, every single member of a population has an equal chance of being chosen as a subject. This process is an important research tool used in psychology research, allowing scientists to create representative samples from which conclusions can be drawn and applied to the larger population.

Random Selection vs. Random Assignment: What’s the Difference?

One thing that is important to note is that random selection is not the same thing as random assignment. While random selection involves how participants are chosen for a study, random assignment involves how those chosen are then assigned to different groups in the experiment. Many studies and experiments actually use both of these techniques.

For example, random selection might be used to draw 100 students to participate in a study. Each of these 100 participants would then be randomly assigned to either the control group or the experimental group.

Why Do Researchers Use Random Selection?

What is the reason that researchers choose to use random selection when conducting research?

Some key reasons include:

  • Random selection is one way to help improve the generalizability of the results. Because the sample is drawn from a larger population, the researchers want to be sure that the sample they are using in their study accurately reflects the characteristics of the larger group. The more representative the sample is, the better able the researchers are able to generalize the results of their experiment to a larger population. By randomly selecting participants for a study, researchers can also help minimize the possibility of bias influencing the results.
  • Random selection helps ensure that anomalies will not skew results. By randomly selecting participants for a study, researchers are less likely to draw on subjects that may share unusual characteristics in common. For example, if researchers were interested in learning how many people in the general population are left-handed, the results might be skewed if subject were inadvertently drawn from a group that included an unusually high number of left-handed individuals. Using random selection ensures that the group better represents what exists in the real-world.