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representativeness The ability to give a reasonably accurate portrayal of the research subject's characteristics and known diversity. As applied to survey samples, or case-study samples, this is judged by the extent to which key characteristics of the sample are the same as the characteristics of the population from which the sample was selected. In relation to single cases, the criterion would be the typicality of the case selected. The term is also applied to research reports, for example to assess whether verbatim quotations, incidents described in detail, or other selectively reported results reflect the full variety and weight of the results obtained. See also SAMPLING ERROR.