Example vs. Sample: Are You Confusing The Two Terms in Academic Writing? 

by Arushi Gupta

When it comes to research, the terms example and sample are often used interchangeably. However, they have distinct meanings that are important to understand to ensure clear communication and accurate reporting of results. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between example and sample, and provide guidelines for when to use each term in research writing. 

Difference between ‘example’ and ‘sample’

An example is a specific instance or case that is used to illustrate a point. It is often used to clarify or explain a concept, idea, or theory. 

For instance, in a research paper on the effects of social media on teenagers, an example might be given of a particular teenager who experienced cyberbullying as a result of using social media. 

A sample, on the other hand, is a subset of a larger population that is selected for research purposes. It is used to gather data about the population as a whole, and the results are extrapolated to make inferences about the larger population. 

 For instance, if a researcher wants to study the effects of a new medication on a particular disease, they might select a sample of patients with that disease to participate in the study. 

When to use ’example’ in academic writing

Examples are useful for clarifying or illustrating a point in research writing. They can be used to explain a concept or theory, provide evidence to support an argument, or describe a particular case or situation. Examples are typically used in the introduction or discussion sections of a research paper to help the reader understand the context and significance of the research findings. 

For example, in a study on the effectiveness of a new teaching method, the researcher might use examples to illustrate how the method was used in the classroom, what types of activities were used, and how the students responded. This would help the reader understand the practical implications of the research and how it could be applied in real-world settings. 

When to use ‘sample’ in academic writing

Samples are used in research to gather data about a particular population of interest. They are typically selected using a specific sampling method that is designed to ensure that the sample is representative of the larger population. Samples can be used in a variety of research designs, including experimental, observational, and survey research. 

When writing about a sample in a research paper, it is important to provide detailed information about the sampling method used, the characteristics of the sample, and any limitations or biases that may have affected the results. This helps to ensure that the reader understands the generalizability of the findings and the extent to which they can be applied to the larger population. 

For example, in a study on the effects of a new diet on weight loss, the researcher might describe the characteristics of the sample, such as age, gender, and body mass index (BMI). They might also describe the sampling method used, such as random sampling or convenience sampling, and any limitations of the study, such as a small sample size or lack of diversity in the sample. 


In summary, while example and sample are often used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings in research writing. Examples are used to illustrate or clarify a point, while samples are used to gather data about a particular population of interest.  

Did that help you write your piece of research? If yes, we have more such articles in line to aid you in your research journey. Keep checking this page for more!  

You may also like

Your Paperpal Footer