n.choosing, as part of appraisal, a portion of a body of records for permanent retention through subjective criteriaKepley 1984, 238The archival literature on sampling and how it relates to the appraisal of archives is thin. When the term has been used, it has usually meant one of two things: to cull from a large records series the most significant files or documents for retention (subjective sampling), or to select statistically a small portion from a large universe of information that will accurately reflect all important characteristics of the larger universe (statistical sampling).Kepley 1984, 238For over a generation, archivists have declared that some records do not have sufficient historical or other research values to warrant their continued preservation. Subjective sampling simply carries this process one step further below the series level. This type of sampling then is tailored to meet a situation in which a series is judged to have some research value but only certain files—perhaps those that generated media interest, led to economic or political clashes, or created a precedent—are judged worthy of retention.Ham 1993, 78In a purposive sample, the goals of selection are determined by the selector’s judgment, not by some mathematical formula. Variously called purposive, judgmental, selective, or subjective sampling, it is the method most familiar to and used by archivists.Hunter 2020, 63–64Archivists use purposive sampling when they are not concerned about obtaining a representative sample. Instead, the archivist makes a judgment about which individual items or cases merit retention. Such subjective sampling is very familiar to archivists; in fact, it is very similar to a standard archival appraisal decision. ¶ The danger with any type of purposive sampling is that it is susceptible to bias. The judgment of a fallible human being is at the heart of the decision to retain or destroy an item. In order to make an informed decision, the archivist must have some expertise in the subject area and a familiarity with research trends in the discipline.
Subjective sampling, synonymous with purposive sampling, is also less commonly called purposeful sampling, qualitative sampling, or selective sampling.