Sampling in eHRAF

It is rarely necessary to use the entire eHRAF World Cultures for comparative studies. As long as a sample is representative of some well-defined universe of cultures, societies, or archaeological traditions, sampling a sub-set saves time and effort.

Researchers wishing to have a sample that claims to be representative of the cultures of the world should consider some of the eHRAF sub-samples such as the 60-culture Probability Sample Files (PSF). A simple random sample can be used to supplement the PSF. In addition, eHRAF already includes a large proportion of the 186 societies in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample.

eHRAF World Cultures contains three samples that can be considered representative:

Probability Sample Files (PSF): 60 largely preindustrial societies that meet certain data quality controls, one randomly chosen from each culture area.

Simple Random Sample (SRS): currently 28 societies randomly chosen from a compiled list of over 8 cross-cultural samples.

Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS): consists of 186 anthropologically described societies pinpointed in time and space.

For eHRAF Archaeology, HRAF has employed two types of sampling. The first is simple random sampling (SRS) from the Outline of Archaeological Traditions. The second is to include entire tradition sequences, usually three or more archaeological traditions.

How to find, sort and narrow by sample type(s) in eHRAF

Choosing a sample type in eHRAF is done on the Region and Culture Results Page after you have entered your search terms. You may also sort your results tables by sample. To learn how to narrow your eHRAF search results by sample type, view Filtering search results in eHRAF.

Notes about SCCS cases in eHRAF:

To facilitate research for those wanting to code their own variables using eHRAF World Cultures for the SCCS sample, the HRAF staff have flagged those documents that, in HRAF's judgment, provide an appropriate match to the time and place foci of the SCCS. Note that in almost all cases, eHRAF World Cultures contains many more documents than those flagged. This is because the HRAF collections try to cover multiple times and places to facilitate understanding of change of over and of regional variation.

You can, after performing a search, narrow your results to the societies in eHRAF that have some matching documents on the Region and Culture Results Page. Then, in the Document and Paragraph Results View, matching SCCS documents will be footnoted with "S1," "S2," and "S3."

As explained in the footnotes, an "S1" is considered a direct match. An "S2" is considered a partial match, usually because the document covers multiple time periods or multiple cultures. An "S3" footnote is occasionally given when the time or place is somewhat ambiguous and we urge some caution in using the source. No footnote beside the document title may mean that while the culture is a match for the SCCS, the documents listed are not time and place matches. We still include these results in order for researchers to have access to additional data that may be relevant to them despite not being an exact SCCS match.

The Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research on the HRAF homepage contains further discussion about sampling including suggested reading.