Variable-Sample Methods for Stochastic Optimization

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In this article we discuss the application of a certain class of Monte Carlo methods to stochastic optimization problems. Particularly, we study variable-sample techniques, in which the objective function is replaced, at each iteration, by a sample average approximation. We first provide general results on the schedule of sample sizes, under which variable-sample methods yield consistent estimators as well as bounds on the estimation error. Because the convergence analysis is performed pathwisely, we are able to obtain our results in a flexible setting, which requires mild assumptions on the distributions and which includes the possibility of using different sampling distributions along the algorithm. We illustrate these ideas by studying a modification of the well-known pure random search method, adapting it to the variable-sample scheme, and show conditions for convergence of the algorithm. Implementation issues are discussed and numerical results are presented to illustrate the ideas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-133
Number of pages26
JournalACM Transactions on Modeling and Computer Simulation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Monte Carlo methods
  • Pathwise bounds
  • Random search
  • Stochastic optimization


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