A population is any complete group with at least one characteristic in common. Populations are not just people. Populations may consist of, but are not limited to, people, animals, businesses, buildings, motor vehicles, farms, objects or events. 

Importance of identifying the population

When looking at data, it is important to clearly identify the population being studied or referred to, so that you can understand who or what are included in the data. For example, if you were looking at some Australian farming data, you would need to understand whether the population the data refers to is all farms in Australia, just farms that grow crops, those that only have livestock, or some other type of farm.

Start with the population

The population needs to be clearly identified at the beginning of a study. The study should be based on a clear understanding of who or what is of interest, as well as the type of information required from that population.

Collecting data about a population

Step 1 - What is a population?

Collecting data about a population flowchart
Flowchart of the 3 steps when collecting data about a population. Step 1 - What is a population? (This step talked about on this page) Step 2 - Census and sample Step 3 - Data sources

Collecting data about a population flowchart

Flowchart outlining the steps and decisions needed when collecting data
What or who is the target population? Define target population (This step talked about on this page). Will the data be collected from all or part of the population? If doing a complete enumeration (all), a census is conducted. If only doing a partial enumeration (part), a sample is taken. How will the data be sourced? If collecting primary data in a direct data collection, a survey is conducted. This includes questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and observations. If collecting secondary data in an indirect data collection, an administrative data source can be used. This data exists as a by-product of administrative processes.

Further information

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