Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology for respondent-driven sampling studies: "STROBE-RDS" statement

J Clin Epidemiol. 2015 Dec;68(12):1463-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2015.04.002. Epub 2015 May 1.


Objectives: Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) is a new data collection methodology used to estimate characteristics of hard-to-reach groups, such as the HIV prevalence in drug users. Many national public health systems and international organizations rely on RDS data. However, RDS reporting quality and available reporting guidelines are inadequate. We carried out a systematic review of RDS studies and present Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology for RDS Studies (STROBE-RDS), a checklist of essential items to present in RDS publications, justified by an explanation and elaboration document.

Study design and setting: We searched the MEDLINE (1970-2013), EMBASE (1974-2013), and Global Health (1910-2013) databases to assess the number and geographical distribution of published RDS studies. STROBE-RDS was developed based on STROBE guidelines, following Guidance for Developers of Health Research Reporting Guidelines.

Results: RDS has been used in over 460 studies from 69 countries, including the USA (151 studies), China (70), and India (32). STROBE-RDS includes modifications to 12 of the 22 items on the STROBE checklist. The two key areas that required modification concerned the selection of participants and statistical analysis of the sample.

Conclusion: STROBE-RDS seeks to enhance the transparency and utility of research using RDS. If widely adopted, STROBE-RDS should improve global infectious diseases public health decision making.

Keywords: Biomedical research/methods; Cross-sectional studies; Epidemiologic research design; Epidemiologic studies; Guidelines as topic; Guidelines as topic/standards; Humans; Observation/methods; Practice guidelines as topic; Publishing/standards; Research design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Research Design*
  • Humans
  • Observational Studies as Topic*
  • Research Design*
  • Sampling Studies*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*