- Computing Necessary Sample Size

Calculating the sample size necessary for estimating a population mean with a given margin of error and level of confidence is similar to that for estimating a population proportion. However, since the \(t\) distribution is not as “neat” as the standard normal distribution, the process can be iterative. (Recall, the shape of the \(t\) distribution is different for each degree of freedom). This means that we would solve, reset, solve, reset, etc. until we reached a conclusion. Yet, we can avoid this iterative process if we employ an approximate method based on \(t\) distribution approaching the standard normal distribution as the sample size increases. This approximate method invokes the following formula:

Finding the Sample Size for Estimating a Population Mean
\(n=\frac{z^{2}\widetilde{\sigma}^{2}}{M^{2}}=\left ( \frac{z\widetilde{\sigma}}{M} \right )^2\)

\(z\) = z multiplier for given confidence level
\(\widetilde{\sigma}\) = estimated population standard deviation
\(M\) = margin of error

The sample standard deviation may be estimated on the basis of prior research studies.