J. Med. Internet Res. - Does self-selection affect samples' representativeness in online surveys? An investigation in online video game research.


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CKGROUND: The number of medical studies performed through online surveys has increased dramatically in recent years. Despite their numerous advantages (eg, sample size, facilitated access to individuals presenting stigmatizing issues), selection bias may exist in online surveys. However, evidence on the representativeness of self-selected samples in online studies is patchy.OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to explore the representativeness of a self-selected sample of online gamers using online players' virtual characters (avatars).METHODS: All avatars belonged to individuals playing World of Warcraft (WoW), currently the most widely used online game. Avatars' characteristics were defined using various games' scores, reported on the WoW's official website, and two self-selected samples from previous studies were compared with a randomly selected sample of avatars.RESULTS: We used scores linked to 1240 avatars (762 from the self-selected samples and 478 from the random sample). The two self-selected samples of avatars had higher scores on most of the assessed variables (except for guild membership and exploration). Furthermore, some guilds were overrepresented in the self-selected samples.CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that more proficient players or players more involved in the game may be more likely to participate in online surveys. Caution is needed in the interpretation of studies based on online surveys that used a self-selection recruitment procedure. Epidemiological evidence on the reduced representativeness of sample of online surveys is warranted.

Resumo Limpo

ckground number medic studi perform onlin survey increas dramat recent year despit numer advantag eg sampl size facilit access individu present stigmat issu select bias may exist onlin survey howev evid repres selfselect sampl onlin studi patchyobject object explor repres selfselect sampl onlin gamer use onlin player virtual charact avatarsmethod avatar belong individu play world warcraft wow current wide use onlin game avatar characterist defin use various game score report wow offici websit two selfselect sampl previous studi compar random select sampl avatarsresult use score link avatar selfselect sampl random sampl two selfselect sampl avatar higher score assess variabl except guild membership explor furthermor guild overrepres selfselect samplesconclus result suggest profici player player involv game may like particip onlin survey caution need interpret studi base onlin survey use selfselect recruit procedur epidemiolog evid reduc repres sampl onlin survey warrant

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