Applications and recruitment performance of web-based respondent-driven sampling: Scoping review

Yannick B. Helms*, Nora Hamdiui, Mirjam E.E. Kretzschmar, Luis E.C. Rocha, Jim E. Van Steenbergen, Linus Bengtsson, Anna Thorson, Aura Timen, Mart L. Stein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Web-based respondent-driven sampling is a novel sampling method for the recruitment of participants for generating population estimates, studying social network characteristics, and delivering health interventions. However, the application, barriers and facilitators, and recruitment performance of web-based respondent-driven sampling have not yet been systematically investigated. Objective: Our objectives were to provide an overview of published research using web-based respondent-driven sampling and to investigate factors related to the recruitment performance of web-based respondent-driven sampling. Methods: We conducted a scoping review on web-based respondent-driven sampling studies published between 2000 and 2019. We used the process evaluation of complex interventions framework to gain insights into how web-based respondent-driven sampling was implemented, what mechanisms of impact drove recruitment, what the role of context was in the study, and how these components together influenced the recruitment performance of web-based respondent-driven sampling. Results: We included 18 studies from 8 countries (high- and low-middle income countries), in which web-based respondent-driven sampling was used for making population estimates (n=12), studying social network characteristics (n=3), and delivering health-related interventions (n=3). Studies used web-based respondent-driven sampling to recruit between 19 and 3448 participants from a variety of target populations. Studies differed greatly in the number of seeds recruited, the proportion of successfully recruiting participants, the number of recruitment waves, the type of incentives offered to participants, and the duration of data collection. Studies that recruited relatively more seeds, through online platforms, and with less rigorous selection procedures reported relatively low percentages of successfully recruiting seeds. Studies that did not offer at least one guaranteed material incentive reported relatively fewer waves and lower percentages of successfully recruiting participants. The time of data collection was shortest in studies with university students. Conclusions: Web-based respondent-driven sampling can be successfully applied to recruit individuals for making population estimates, studying social network characteristics, and delivering health interventions. In general, seed and peer recruitment may be enhanced by rigorously selecting and motivating seeds, offering at least one guaranteed material incentive, and facilitating adequate recruitment options regarding the target population's online connectedness and communication behavior. Potential trade-offs should be taken into account when implementing web-based respondent-driven sampling, such as having less opportunities to implement rigorous seed selection procedures when recruiting many seeds, as well as issues around online rather than physical participation, such as the risk of cheaters participating repeatedly.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17564
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Hard-to-reach populations
  • Interventions
  • Online sampling
  • Probabilistic sampling
  • Public health
  • Research methodology
  • Respondent-driven sampling
  • WebRDS

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