Preprint: Sample Size Justification

New preprint (Jan 4th, 2021) from @Lakens, “an unsubmitted preprint shared for feedback”.

Title: Sample Size Justification

Author: Daniël Lakens, Eindhoven University of Technology


An important step when designing a study is to justify the sample size that will be collected. The key aim of a sample size justification is to explain how the collected data is expected to provide valuable information given the inferential goals of the researcher. In this overview article six approaches are discussed to justify the sample size in a quantitative empirical study: 1) collecting data from (an)almost) the entire population, 2) choosing a sample size based on resource constraints, 3) performing an a-priori power analysis, 4) planning for a desired accuracy, 5) using heuristics, or 6) explicitly acknowledging the absence of a justification. An important question to consider when justifying sample sizes is which effect sizes are deemed interesting, and the extent to which the data that is collected informs inferences about these effect sizes. Depending on the sample size justification chosen, researchers could consider 1) what the smallest effect size of interest is, 2) which minimal effect size will be statistically significant, 3) which effect sizes they expect (and what they base these expectations on), 4) which effect sizes would be rejected based on a confidence interval around the effect size, 5) which ranges of effects a study has sufficient power to detect based on a sensitivity power analysis, and 6) which effect sizes are plausible in a specific research area. Researchers can use the guidelines presented in this article to improve their sample size justification, and hopefully, align the informational value of a study with their inferential goals.


Thank for sharing! Happy to receive any comments for improvement anyone might have!

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