Consecutive Sampling

Updated on February 27, 2024
Article byGayatri Ailani
Edited byShreeya Jain
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Consecutive Sampling?

Consecutive sampling is a type of sampling method in research where participants are selected based on their availability and accessibility. The aim is to include participants in a study based on their availability and accessibility during the data collection period.

Consecutive Sampling

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Researchers often use it to collect data in real-world, non-laboratory settings. Additionally, they use it in pilot or preliminary studies to test research instruments and methodologies before conducting large-scale research. This can help researchers refine their approaches for a larger study. After collecting data from one sample, the researcher proceeds to the next, continuing this process consecutively.

Key Takeaways

  • Consecutive sampling is a non-random sampling technique where participants are selected in a predetermined, sequential order based on availability.
  • It provides a chronological view of data, making it useful for trend analysis and pattern recognition. At the same time, it is useful for tracking changes over time and identifying causal relationships.
  • Moreover, it has a potential for selection bias, especially if systematic differences exist between early and late data points.
  • In dynamic settings, researchers typically use consecutive sampling, while purposive sampling involves focusing on specific qualities. Convenience sampling prioritizes ease of data collection, and each approach has its own advantages and limitations.

Consecutive Sampling Explained

Consecutive sampling is a non-probability sampling method where participants are selected for a study based on their availability and accessibility.  The process involves including individuals who meet certain criteria and are available during the data collection period in a sequential manner. Researchers conduct their studies one after another until they reach a conclusive result; hence, the term “consecutive.” In this method, researchers choose the sample based on the easy availability of participants and carry out the research sequentially. After obtaining and analyzing results, the researcher moves on to the next sample or subject.

Furthermore, to use the consecutive sampling method effectively, researchers must first define the criteria that individuals in the target population should meet. They then select participants based on convenience, thus ensuring that each prospective respondent meets the established criteria and is easily accessible for the study. Once researchers meet these conditions, they include the individuals in the sample population for the research.

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Therefore, the convenience of conducting a consecutive sampling technique is that one doesn’t need to worry about whether the sample is representative of the population. Convenience samples are quite popular in research due to their ease of creation. Moreover, researchers often use it in situations where accessing a complete sampling frame is difficult or when they are constrained by time or resources.

Hence, to mitigate consecutive sampling bias, researchers employing this method should be transparent about the limitations of their sampling method. Researchers commonly employ this method in certain practical settings, such as clinical studies, medical research, or educational research. Here, the researchers may have limited access to a diverse population and need to collect data from those readily available.


Let us look at a few consecutive sampling examples to understand the concept better- 

Example #1

Let’s consider a researcher interested in studying the investment preferences of clients at a financial advisory firm. Facing constraints in terms of time and resources, the researcher opts for a consecutive sampling approach. Over the course of several weeks, the researcher approaches clients who visit the firm for consultations and invites them to participate in the study. The firm consecutively includes in the sample those clients who agree and meet the inclusion criteria (e.g., having an investment portfolio with the firm and being willing to participate). 

Hence, this method allows for the efficient collection of data from clients who are readily available during scheduled appointments. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential for selection bias, as clients who actively seek financial advice during the specified period may have different investment preferences than those who do not. While the study provides valuable insights into the investment choices of accessible clients, one should exercise caution when extrapolating these findings to the broader client base of the financial advisory firm.

Example #2

Consider a finance researcher investigating the spending habits of customers at a local bank branch. Due to time constraints and the need for timely data, the researcher opts for a consecutive sampling approach. Over the course of a month, the researcher approaches customers as they enter the bank and invites them to participate in the study. Those customers who agree and meet the inclusion criteria (e.g., having an active account and being of a certain age) are consecutively included in the sample. Therefore, this method allows the researcher to efficiently collect data from customers who are readily available during regular banking hours.

However, it is important to recognize the potential for selection bias—customers who frequent the bank during the specified time frame may have different spending habits than those who do not. While the findings may provide valuable insights into the spending patterns of accessible bank customers, caution is needed when generalizing these results to the broader customer base.

When To Use?

Consecutive sampling finds application in various research contexts, particularly when other sampling methods are impractical or when researchers aim to explore rare populations, phenomena, or specific characteristics.

  • Rare Disease Studies: Consecutive sampling is commonly employed in studies focusing on rare diseases or specific disease states. Researchers may approach individuals with rare conditions as they encounter them in clinical settings, enabling the collection of valuable data about the disease’s characteristics and management.
  • Phenomena Investigations: In research on rare or infrequent events, consecutive sampling is beneficial. For instance, when studying unusual natural occurrences or atypical human behaviors, researchers can continuously collect data as these events happen, providing insights into their nature and underlying causes.
  • Maximum Variation Sampling: One can utilize maximum variation sampling when researchers seek to capture the full spectrum of variations within a target population. This approach helps understand the breadth and diversity of characteristics, behaviors, or experiences within a specific group.
  • Longitudinal Studies: Sampling is valuable in longitudinal studies that span an extended period. Researchers can track and collect data from participants over time, such as studying students attending college over a four-year period. This allows for the examination of changes and developments over time.
  • Population Research: When studying hard-to-reach or dispersed populations, consecutive sampling can be practical. Researchers may interact with participants as they become available, which can be the case when investigating nomadic communities, remote tribes, or marginalized groups.
  • Time Sensitivity: When time is a critical factor, and researchers need to collect data quickly, consecutive sampling becomes a useful approach. This is often the case in fast-paced environments or when there is a need for timely decision-making.

Advantages And Disadvantages

The advantages and disadvantages of consecutive sampling are as follows:

They lack randomness in the selection process. Random sampling methods, such as simple random sampling or stratified random sampling, are designed to provide an equal chance of selection for all individuals in the population. These do not offer this randomness, which can result in a non-representative sample.
Since participants are selected based on their availability and willingness to participate, this method may introduce selection bias. 
The repetitive nature of consecutive sampling allows for ongoing refinement of the research process. Researchers can make minor adjustments and improvements at the outset of the study to minimize potential research bias. This adaptability enhances the quality of the research and ensures that the data collected is as relevant and accurate as possible.Here, it minimizes the effort and resources required to conduct research. It is a time-efficient method that doesn’t demand an extensive workforce. 
Moreover, the findings from consecutive sampling may not be easily generalizable to a broader population. Since the sample is not randomly selected, it can be challenging to make inferences about the larger population from the data collected through this method.Moreover, the findings from consecutive sampling may not be easily generalizable to a broader population. Since the sample is not randomly selected, it can be challenging to make inferences about the larger population from the data collected through this method

Consecutive Sampling vs Purposive Sampling vs Convenience Sampling

The differences between consecutive, purposive and convenience sampling are as follows- 

BasisConsecutive SamplingPurposive SamplingConvenience Sampling 
DefinitionThese are used when researchers want to focus on specific subgroups or individuals within a population who possess certain characteristics or expertise relevant to the research questions.Consecutive sampling involves selecting participants or data points one after the other in a sequential manner based on their availability or willingness to participate. Convenience sampling, as the name suggests, involves selecting participants who are most readily available and accessible to the researcher. 
PurposeThe primary aim is to collect data sequentially and adapt the research approach as needed.Consecutive sampling involves selecting participants, or data points one after the other in a sequential manner based on their availability or willingness to participate. Here, it is chosen when the emphasis is on ease of data collection and when obtaining a quick sample is more important than ensuring representativeness. 
Sampling processInvolves selecting every individual from a list or every individual that meets the inclusion criteria as they appear.Researchers choose participants based on their expertise, characteristics, or relevance to the study.Participants are selected based on their convenience and accessibility to the researcher.
UsesUseful in situations where there is a logical order or list from which participants can be easily selected.Appropriate when researchers need specific characteristics in their sample for targeted investigation.Commonly used in exploratory studies or when it is difficult to access a more representative sample.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is consecutive sampling suitable for all research studies?

No, it may not be suitable for all studies. It is more appropriate for exploratory or descriptive research where representativeness is not a primary concern. For studies requiring a representative sample, random sampling methods are often preferred.

2. What is the difference between consecutive vs selective sampling?

Consecutive sampling involves selecting participants or data points sequentially based on their availability and willingness, without predefined criteria, often used in dynamic or real-time research. Selective (purposive) sampling, on the other hand, involves deliberate selection based on specific criteria or expertise, aiming to include individuals with desired characteristics, often used in qualitative research to focus on particular subgroups.

3. How can biases be minimized in consecutive sampling?

While consecutive sampling inherently involves a non-random process, researchers can minimize biases by ensuring that the selection process is as objective as possible. Clearly defining inclusion criteria and avoiding systematic patterns in participant selection can help mitigate potential biases.

This article has been a guide to what is Consecutive Sampling. We explain its example, comparison with convenience & purposive sampling, advantages, & when to use it. You may also find some useful articles here –

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