Convenience samples and caregiving research: how generalizable are the findings?

Gerontologist. 2008 Dec;48(6):820-7. doi: 10.1093/geront/48.6.820.


Purpose: We contrast characteristics of respondents recruited using convenience strategies with those of respondents recruited by random digit dial (RDD) methods. We compare sample variances, means, and interrelationships among variables generated from the convenience and RDD samples.

Design and methods: Women aged 50 to 64 who work full time and provide care to a community-dwelling older person were recruited using either RDD (N = 55) or convenience methods (N = 87). Telephone interviews were conducted using reliable, valid measures of demographics, characteristics of the care recipient, help provided to the care recipient, evaluations of caregiver-care recipient relationship, and outcomes common to caregiving research.

Results: Convenience and RDD samples had similar variances on 68.4% of the examined variables. We found significant mean differences for 63% of the variables examined. Bivariate correlations suggest that one would reach different conclusions using the convenience and RDD sample data sets.

Implications: Researchers should use convenience samples cautiously, as they may have limited generalizability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design*
  • Sampling Studies
  • United States