You are here

Muestreo mixto online: Una aplicación en poblaciones ocultas

Online mixted sampling: An application in hidden populations

Journal Name:

Publication Year:


Keywords (Original Language):

Abstract (2. Language): 
Purpose: The objective of the article is to explore the possibilities offered by new technologies and virtual social networks for the recruitment of sampling units in hidden populations and as a support of the use of mixed methods. Design/methodology: The objective was to identify Argentinean entrepreneurs who start their business in Spain. The observation unit has the characteristics of a hidden population: 1) high geographic dispersion which makes it difficult to localize them; 2) underestimation of the size of Argentinean residents in the official statistics; 3) Argentinean residents in illegal situation; and, 4) in some cases, the factors that led the emigration were negative, making them reluctant to answer. In this context, the researchers used (1) an online virtual sampling and, (2) the traditional snowball sampling. The online virtual sampling was carried out by using a social network (Facebook) through which 52 virtual groups of “Argentinean living in Spain” were identified. Subsequently, each member was contacted by an individual message which explained the aim of the research and invited them to participate in the study. Findings: Through the development of this study, it was possible to prove that the use of virtual groups in social networks led to detect observation units that are not registered officially (administrative register, census, etc.). This finding contributed to increase the scope and size of the sample, it favoured the design of the qualitative sample and the triangulation of the results. Therefore, it increased the validity of the hidden population. Originality/value: The article presents an experience of application of virtual sampling and mixed methods in the study of hidden populations. In particular, it analysed Argentinean immigrant entrepreneurs by using virtual groups as a source of information.
Abstract (Original Language): 
Objeto: El objetivo de este artículo es explorar las posibilidades que ofrecen las nuevas tecnologías de información y la aparición de las redes sociales virtuales, para el reclutamiento de unidades muestrales en poblaciones ocultas y como soporte del uso de métodos mixtos. Diseño/metodología/enfoque: El objetivo era identificar a los empresarios argentinos que iniciaron negocios en España. Esta unidad de observación, presenta características que la definen como población oculta: 1) elevada dispersión geográfica que dificulta su localización; 2) subestimación en el número de argentinos residentes en las estadísticas oficiales; 3) argentinos residentes en situación ilegal; y, 4) en muchos casos los factores que motivaron la emigración son negativos, por lo que genera reticencia a contestar. En este contexto, se desarrolló (1) el muestreo virtual online y (2) el muestreo por bola de nieve tradicional. En el muestreo virtual online se utilizó la red social Facebook, mediante la cual se identificaron 52 grupos virtuales que nuclean a argentinos que viven en España. Posteriormente, se envío a cada miembro un mensaje personal explicando el propósito del estudio e invitándolos a participar en el mismo. Aportaciones y resultados: A través de la realización del estudio, se comprueba que mediante el uso de redes sociales es posible acceder a unidades de observación que no se hubieran detectado por vías institucionales (registros administrativos, censos, etc.). Este resultado demuestra que este tipo de herramientas, contribuyen a incrementar el alcance geográfico y el tamaño de la muestra, favorecen al diseño de la muestra cualitativa y la triangulación de resultados, aumentando la validez de los estudios de poblaciones ocultas. Originalidad / Valor añadido: El artículo presenta una experiencia de aplicación de muestreo virtual y métodos mixtos en el estudio de poblaciones ocultas, a partir del análisis del empresariado inmigrante argentino y utilizando como fuentes de información los grupos virtuales.



ACQUISTI, A.; GROSS, R. (2006). Imagined communities: Awareness, information sharing, and privacy on the Facebook. En P. GOLLE; G. DANEZIS (Eds.), Proceedings of 6th Workshop on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, Cambridge, UK: Robinson College.
ATKINSON, R.; FLINT, J. (2001). Accessing hidden and hard-to-reach populations: Snowball research strategies. Social Research Update, 33: 1-5.
BALTAR, F.; BACHIERI, L.; CAMPA, F. (2011). Estrategias de gestión online de encuestas empresariales. Proceedings of IV Taller de Investigación de Asepuc, 24 y 25 noviembre, Cartagena.
BALTAR, F.; GREGORI, A. (2011) Using online instruments to study “hard to involve” populations in social research. Proceedings of International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, 3, 4-6 julio, Barcelona.
BATEMAN, P.J.; GRAY, P.H.; BUTLER, B.S. (2010). The impact of community commitment on participation in online communities. Information Systems Research, 21(2). Disponible online en:
BEER, D.; BURROWS, R. (2007). Sociology and, of and in Web 2.0: Some initial considerations. Sociological Research Online, 12(5),
BENFIELD, J.; SZLEMKO, W. (2006). Internet-based data collection: Promises and realities. Journal of Research Practice, 2(2). Disponible online en:
Intangible Capital -
- 146 -
BOYD, D. (2008). Facebook's privacy trainwreck: Exposure, invasion, and social convergence. Convergence, 14(1): 13-20.
BOYD, D.; ELLISON, N. (2008). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 13: 210–230.
BRACKERTZ, N. (2007). How hard is to reach?. ISR Working Paper. Disponible online en:
BRICKMAN-BHUTTA, C. (2009). Not by the book: Facebook as sampling frame. Disponible online en:
BRYMAN, A. (2006). Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: How is it done?. Qualitative Research, 6(1): 97-113.
COHEN, P. (1990). Drugs as a Social Construct. Amsterdam: Universitëit van Amsterdam.
COLLINS, K.M.T.; ONWUEGBUZIE, A.J.; JIAO, Q.G. (2006). Prevalence of mixed methods sampling designs in social science research and beyond. Proceedings of American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.
COUPER, M.P. (2000). Web surveys, a review of issues and approaches. Public Opinion Quarterly, 64(4): 464-494.
DUNCAN, D.; WHITE, J.B. (2003). Using internet-based surveys to reach hidden populations: Case of nonabusive illicit drug users. American Journal of Health Behavior, 27(3): 208-218.
DWYER, C.; HILTZ, S.; PASSERINI, K. (2007). Trust and privacy concern within social networking sites: A comparison of Facebook and MySpace. Proceedings of the Thirteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems – AMCIS, Colorado.
ELLISON, N.; STEINFIELD, C.; LAMPE, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends”: Social capital and college students use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), article 1.
EVANS, J.; MATHUR, A. (2005). The value of online surveys. Internet Research, 15(2): 195-219.
Intangible Capital -
- 147 -
FLICK, U. (1992). Triangulation revisited: Strategy of validation or alternative?. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 22: 175-197.
FRICKER, R.; SCHONLAU, M. (2002). Advantages and disadvantages of internet research surveys: Evidence from the literature. Field Methods, 14(4): 347-367.
HECKATHORN, D. (1997). Respondent-driven sampling: A new approach to the study of hidden populations. Social Problems, 44(2): 174–199.
JARIEGO, I. (2001). Las paradojas del multiculturalismo (y de sus enemigos). Revista Iberoamericana de Filosofía, Política y Humanidades, 3(1): 168-174.
JOHNSON, B.; ONWUEGBUZIE, A.J. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational Researcher, 33(7): 14–26.
JOHNSON, R.B.; CHRISTENSEN, L.B. (2004). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
KOO, M.; SKINNER, H. (2005). Challenges of internet recruitment: A case study with disappointing results. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 7(1): e6.
MAGNANI, R.; SABIN, K.; SAIDEL, T.; HECKATHORN, D. (2005). Review of sampling hard-to-reach and hidden populations for HIV surveillance, AIDS, 19: 67-72.
MARONICK, T. (2009). The role of the internet in survey research: Guidelines for researchers and experts. Journal of Global Business and Technology, 5(1): 22.
MARPSATA, M.; RAZAFINDRATSIMAB, N. (2010). Survey methods for hard-to-reach populations: introduction to the special issue. Methodological Innovations Online, 5(2): 3-16.
MARTINEZ TORRES, M.R.; TORAL, S.L.; BARRERO, F.; CORTÉS, F. (2010). The role of internet in the development of future software projects. Internet Research, 20(1): 72-86.
Intangible Capital -
- 148 -
MENDELSON, C. (2007). Recruitment participants for research from online communities. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 25: 317-323.
MILLER, P.G.; SONDERLUND, A.L. (2010). Using the internet to research hidden populations of illicit drug users: A review. Addiction, 105: 1557–1567.
ONWUEGBUZIE, A.J.; SLATE, J.R.; LEECH, N.L.; COLLINS, K.M.T. (2009). Mixed data analysis: Advanced integration techniques. Mixed Methods for Novice Researchers, 3(1): 13-33.
ONWUEGBUZIE, A.J.; JOHNSON, R.B. (2004). Validity issues in mixed methods research. Proceedings of American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.
ONWUEGBUZIE, A.J.; LEECH, N.L. (2004). Enhancing the interpretation of significant findings: The role of mixed methods research. Proceedings of Annual Meeting of the Eastern Educational Research Association, Clearwater, FL.
SALGANIK, M.J.; HECKATHORN, D.D. (2004). Sampling and estimation in hidden populations using respondent-driven sampling. En: R. STOLZENBERG (Eds.), Sociological Methodology (pp.34). Oxford: Blackwell.
SILENZIO, V.; DUBERSTEIN, P.R.; TANG, W.; LU, N.; TU, X.; HOMAN, C. (2009). Connecting the invisible dots: Reaching lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents and young adults at risk for suicide through online social networks. Social Science & Medicine, 69(3):469-474.
TASHAKKORI, A.; TEDDLIE, C. (1998). Mixed methodology: Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Applied Social Research Methods Series, 46. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
TASHAKKORI, A.; TEDDLIE, C. (2003). Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
TEDDLIE C.; TASHAKKORI, A. (2009). Foundations of mixed methods research: Integrating quantitative and qualitative approaches in the social and behavioral sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Intangible Capital -
- 149 -
TEDDLIE, C.; YU, F. (2007). Mixed methods sampling. A typology with examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1): 77-100.
TORAL, S.L.; MARTINEZ TORRES, M.R.; BARRERO, F.; CORTES, F.D. (2009). An empirical study of the driving forces behind online communities. Internet Research, 19(1): 378-392.
VAN METER, K. (1990). Methodological and design issues: Techniques for assessing the representatives of snowball samples. NIDA Research Monograph: 31-43.
WILSON, A.; LASKEY, N. (2003). Internet based marketing research: A serious alternative to traditional research methods?. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 21(2): 79-84.
ZHOU, T. (2011). Understanding online community user participation: A social influence perspective. Internet Research, 21(1): 67-81.

Thank you for copying data from