A Tale of Two Sample Sources: Do Results from Online Panel Data and Conventional Data Converge?


Samples drawn from commercial online panel data (OPD) are becoming more prevalent in applied psychology research, but they remain controversial due to concerns with data quality. In order to examine the validity of OPD, we conduct meta-analyses of online panel samples and compare internal reliability estimates for scales and effect size estimates for IV–DV relations commonly found in the field with those based on conventionally sourced data. Results based on 90 independent samples and 32,121 participants show OPD has similar psychometric properties and produces criterion validities that generally fall within the credibility intervals of existing meta-analytic results from conventionally sourced data. We suggest that, with appropriate caution, OPD are suitable for many exploratory research questions in the field of applied psychology.

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  1. 1.

    These quotes are from an open-ended question (“Is there anything else you wish to say about online panel samples that haven’t been covered in this survey?”) from an anonymous survey sent to a randomized selection of 500 review board members from Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Personnel Psychology in March 2014.

  2. 2.

    Although the primary purpose of this research was to examine online panel data as a whole, there may be interest in examining differences between MTurk and other online panel sources (such as StudyResponse and Qualtrics). Therefore, we performed supplemental analysis for relationships where there were a minimum of three MTurk samples and three samples from other online panel sources. These results are not substantially different as 80% of the MTurk relationships and 88% of the Qualtrics/StudyResopnse/Zoomerang relationships were within the 80% credibility interval of the conventional meta-analyses. Results are presented in Table 5.


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Correspondence to Sheryl L. Walter.


Appendix 1

Table 4 Results from existing meta-analyses using conventionally sourced data
Table 5 Results for meta-analysis of online panel samples

Appendix 2

Table 6 Main codes and input values for the primary OPD studies included the meta-analysis

Appendix 3

Studies considered but excluded from the current meta-analyses (k = 23)

Excluded due to mixed samples (i.e., combined conventional and OPD samples) (k = 9):

  • Dennis, R., & Winston, B. E. (2003). A factor analysis of Page and Wong’s servant leadership instrument. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 24(8), 455–459.

  • Irak, D. U. (2010). The role of affectivity in an expanded model of person-environment fit. (NR70552 Ph. D.), Carleton University (Canada). Ann Arbor. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/851889665.

  • McAllister, C. P., Harris, J. N., Hochwarter, W. A., Perrewé, P. L., & Ferris, G. R. Got Resources? A multi-sample constructive replication of perceived resource availability’s role in work passion–job outcomes relationships. Journal of Business and Psychology, 1–18.

  • Raver, J. L., & Nishii, L. H. (2010). Once, twice, or three times as harmful? Ethnic harassment, gender harassment, and generalized workplace harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2), 236.

  • Sandell, K. (2007). Transformational leadership, engagement, and performance: A new perspective (Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State University. Libraries).

  • Smith, C. L. (2007). The relational context of employee engagement: An intrinsic perspective (Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State University. Libraries).

  • Staples, D. S., & Webster, J. (2007). Exploring traditional and virtual team members’ “best practices” a social cognitive theory perspective. Small Group Research, 38(1), 60–97.

  • Thoroughgood, C. N., Tate, B. W., Sawyer, K. B., & Jacobs, R. (2012). Bad to the bone empirically defining and measuring destructive leader behavior. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 19(2), 230–255.

  • Tolentino, A. L. (2009). Are all good soldiers created equal? examining the “why” that underlies organizational citizenship behavior: The development of an OCB motives scale. (Doctoral dissertation, University of South Florida).

Excluded due to using online panel company’s survey webhosting but not panel data = (e.g., Survey Monkey) (k = 10):

  • Anderson, L. E. (2015). Relationship between leadership, organizational commitment, and intent to stay among junior executives (Doctoral dissertation, Walden University).

  • Ayers, J. P. (2010). Job satisfaction, job involvement, and perceived organizational support as predictors of organizational commitment (Doctoral dissertation, Walden University).

  • Barbuto Jr., J. E., & Millard, M. L. Developing wisdom and reducing emotional labor in the workplace: Testing the impact of servant leadership.

  • De Lacy, J. C. (2009). Employee engagement: the development of a three dimensional model of engagement; and an exploration of its relationship with affective leader behaviours.

  • Emu, K. E., & Umeh, O. J. (2014). How leadership practices impact job satisfaction of customer relationship officers’: An empirical study. Journal of Management, 2(3), 19–56.

  • Mutsvunguma, P. S. (2012). Ethical climate fit, leader-member exchange and employee job outcomes (Doctoral dissertation).

  • Rader, M. M. (2015). Effects of authentic leadership on job satisfaction and younger worker turnover intentions (Doctoral dissertation, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology).

  • Spector, P. E., & Che, X. X. (2014). Re-examining citizenship: How the control of measurement artifacts affects observed relationships of organizational citizenship behavior and organizational variables. Human Performance, 27(2), 165–182.

  • Yates, L. (2011). Exploring the relationship of ethical leadership with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational citizenship behavior.

  • Yukl, G., O’Donnell, M., & Taber, T. (2009). Influence of leader behaviors on the leader-member exchange relationship. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24(4), 289–299.

Excluded due to niche or otherwise unique online panel (total k = 3):

Online panel of Dutch public sector employees (k = 1):

  • Ashikali, T., & Groeneveld, S. (2015). Diversity management in public organizations and its effect on employees’ affective commitment the role of transformational leadership and the inclusiveness of the organizational culture. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 35(2), 146–168.

Craigslist in Southeastern USA (k = 1):

  • Colquitt, J. A., Long, D. M., Rodell, J. B., & Halvorsen-Ganepola, M. D. (2015). Adding the “in” to justice: A qualitative and quantitative investigation of the differential effects of justice rule adherence and violation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(2), 278.

Social workers belonging to social work online community magazine (k = 1):

  • Sullivan, E. M. (2012). A correlational study of perceived transformational leadership styles and job satisfaction among social workers (Doctoral dissertation, University of Phoenix).

Excluded due to lack of reporting effect size for relationship of interest (k = 1):

  • Swee, H. Y. (2009). A cognitive perspective of self-other agreement: A look at outcomes and predictors of shared implicit performance theories (Doctoral dissertation, University of Akron).

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Walter, S.L., Seibert, S.E., Goering, D. et al. A Tale of Two Sample Sources: Do Results from Online Panel Data and Conventional Data Converge?. J Bus Psychol 34, 425–452 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-018-9552-y

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  • Online panel data
  • MTurk
  • StudyResponse
  • Meta-analysis