SQL Server Stored Procedure to get every Nth row of a Query Result Set

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The requirement is to create simple and dynamic T-SQL code in SQL Server that will get a query string and return every Nth row from the result set of that query.  For example, if N equals 2 then the procedure should return every even row (second, fourth, sixth, etc.).  Both the query and the N should be set dynamically in the T-SQL code.  Another requirement mainly for performance purposes is to avoid loops, complex OFFSET-FETCH statements or cursors.  How can we accomplish this?


The solution involves creating a T-SQL stored procedure in SQL Server that gets an input SQL query string and the Nth parameter then produces the expected result.

  1. The procedure gets a valid query @qry and @step parameters
  2. The procedure checks whether the objects called ##RESULT and table_sequence exists and if so it drops them.
  3. The procedure creates a global temporary table ##RESULT by constructing a SELECT INTO statement from the given query and executes it dynamically.
  4. The procedure adds the table_sequence column to the newly created temporary table as a not null identity column and by that forcing it to count all rows from 1 to the number of rows in the temporary table.
  5. The results of the procedure are all the rows where the modulus of the table_sequence column and the @step parameter equals zero.

Here is the T-SQL code for the stored procedure

-- =====================================================
-- Author:  Eli Leiba
-- Create date: 11-2017
-- Description: Get every nth row from a given query
-- =====================================================
CREATE PROC usp_PickEveryNthRow (@qry VARCHAR (2000), @step INT)
   DECLARE @CreateGlobalTemporaryTBTSQL VARCHAR (2000)
   DECLARE @FromClausePosition INT

   -- If objects ##result and/or table_sequence exists in Database then drop them.
   IF Object_Id('##RESULT') IS NOT NULL

   IF Object_Id('table_sequence') IS NOT NULL
      DROP sequence table_sequence

   SET @FromClausePosition = CHARINDEX ('FROM', @qry, 1)
   -- construct the global temporary table creation statement
   SET @CreateGlobalTemporaryTBTSQL = CONCAT (
         LEFT (@qry, @FromClausePosition - 1),
         '  INTO ##RESULT ',
         SUBSTRING (@qry, @FromClausePosition, LEN (@qry) - @FromClausePosition + 1)

   EXEC (@CreateGlobalTemporaryTBTSQL)

   -- add the running sequence to the global temporary table

   -- pull every Nth row by using the modulus operator in the where clause
   WHERE table_sequence % @step = 0

Keep in mind the following with this code:

  • What are the use cases for using the stored procedure from an IT and business perspective?
    • The ability to pick every Nth row of a given result set can be used for statistical applications, partitioning purposes and more.
  • What are the limitations to using this stored procedure?
    • The limitations of using this procedure are that it always returns a running sequence in its result set.
    • It uses dynamic SQL execution that is checked only upon execution and usually the SQL plan is not in cache.
  • How does this stored procedure perform faster than a loop, cursor, etc.?
    • The procedure uses a single SELECT statement from a global temporary table filtering the rows by using the modulus operator with a SELECT INTO statement that does not use logging to fill the global temporary table.
    • These are simple SQL statements that by default are faster that using loops and cursors in T-SQL code.
  • What happens to the stored procedure if the input logic is wrong?
    • The input parameters for this procedure are a query string an integer numbered as the step N for each Nth row.
    • The query string that is supposed to be a valid query. If the string contains an invalid query then the procedure will fail in the dynamic execution statement.
    • The integer number should be less than the number of returned rows in order to return results.

Here are some examples for using the procedure 

Letís take a look at some examples from Microsoft's demonstration database - NORTHWIND.

Get every tenth row of the products table ordered by the product name

Exec dbo.usp_PickEveryNthRow 'SELECT productname from products order by 1', 10  
Product name                     table_sequence
===============================  ==============
Chef Anton's Cajun Seasoning     10 
Grandma's Boysenberry Spread     20 
Jack's New England Clam Chowder  30 
Mishi Kobe Niku                  40 
Queso Cabrales                   50 
Scottish Longbreads              60 
Tofu                             70

Get every fifth row of the products table for category 1 ordered by unit price

Exec dbo.usp_PickEveryNthRow 'SELECT productname,unitprice from products where categoryid = 1 order by 2',5


And the result is:

productname           unitprice     table_sequence 
============          =========     ============== 
Cate de Blaye           263.50       5 
Rhanbrau Klosterbier      7.75      10 
Next Steps
  • You can create this simple procedure in your application database and use it for similar functionality in your applications queries.
  • The input query is assumed to be a valid simple SELECT query and validity should be checked prior to executing this procedure.
  • The procedure uses a table called ##RESULT and a sequence called table_sequence, so don't use these names in your database or update the script.
  • The procedures were tested for SQL Server version:
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2014 - 12.0.2000.8 (Intel X86)
    • Feb 20 2014 19:20:46
    • Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation
    • Standard Edition on Windows NT 6.1 <X86> (Build 7601: Service Pack 1)
  • The stored procedure should be compatible with SQL Server 2012 version and above.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Eli Leiba Eli Leiba is a senior application DBA, a teacher and a senior database consultant with 19 years of RDBMS experience.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 10:44:37 PM - Henry Stinson Back To Top (74028)

Clever  idea adding column to the temp table using IDENTITY int.   --- where default is (1,1)

I would think also one could use a CTE that selects just the primary key along with ROW_NUMBER( ) OVER (PARTITION BY  .. ORDER BY ..) As [RowNo]

and join that CTE into the SELECT statement where [RowNo] % @step = 0.

Of course, this might not be feasible if you just need to do it in a stored proc that accepts any sql query, but the CTE might just save loading up a lot of data into a temp table (or memory) if it is only the primary key that the CTE gets, and then the following SQL query gets a lot less data.


Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 2:46:52 AM - Eli Leiba Back To Top (73992)


your note is correct -  input query should not have identity column

 because I am adding an extra IDENTITY column

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 2:45:31 AM - Eli Leiba Back To Top (73991)

 Using the row_number() function can do the same action.

I wanted to keep the procedure simple so I have used an extra identity column.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 8:26:47 AM - etsav Back To Top (73972)

 I made another proc, based on your, but with some specific differences (use of ROW_NUMBER(), ORDER BY compulsory, flag to obtain nth rows or <>nth rows).  Pls let me know if it can be of some interest for readers (in that case I can post it).



Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 5:34:50 AM - etsav Back To Top (73963)

 I suspect that ORDER BY in input query is not respected during adding your column table_sequence.



Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 5:04:01 AM - etsav Back To Top (73960)

I think it should be pointed out another limitation:  input query should not have identity column.


Msg 2744, Level 16, State 2, Procedure usp_PickEveryNthRow, Line 25

Multiple identity columns specified for table '##RESULT'. Only one identity column per table is allowed.



Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 3:47:40 AM - R Evans Back To Top (73956)

Would this perform better than using a CTE with the window function ROW_NUMBER()?


;WITH cte AS (

SELECT productname,unitprice, ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY unitprice) table_sequence

FROM products

WHERE categoryid = 1


SELECT productname,unitprice,table_sequence


WHERE table_sequence % @step = 0;

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