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What is the purpose of a random number table?

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Quick Answer

A random number table is used in statistical experiments to enable random sampling of test subjects. This ensures that all subjects have an equal and independent chance of being selected in the study.

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A sample is a subset of a total population that is more manageable and hence actually selected for study. A random number table enables this selection in a random, nonchronological manner. A basic analogy is that of a hat, with subjects’ names being picked out of it at random. When a subject is randomly selected, it means that he and every other subject has equal probability of being selected, with no individual able to affect the selection of others.

A random number table simply contains a list of digits from zero to nine, arranged in a series in no particular order. All ten digits occur with approximately equal frequencies. After the population and sample sizes are determined, each member of the population is assigned a number. The table is then used to randomly select each member of the sample.

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