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A novel framework for classification of selection processes in epidemiological research

Journal article
Authors J. Bjork
A. Nilsson
Carl Bonander
Ulf Strömberg
Published in Bmc Medical Research Methodology
Volume 20
Issue 1
Pages 10
ISSN 1471-2288
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 10
Language en
Keywords Bias, Selection bias, Epidemiologic factors, Population characteristics, Public health, bias, mortality, disease, Health Care Sciences & Services
Subject categories Health Sciences


Background Selection and selection bias are terms that lack consistent definitions and have varying meaning and usage across disciplines. There is also confusion in current definitions between underlying mechanisms that lead to selection and their consequences. Consequences of selection on study validity must be judged on a case-by-case basis depending on research question, study design and analytical decisions. The overall aim of the study was to develop a simple but general framework for classifying various types of selection processes of relevance for epidemiological research. Methods Several original articles from the epidemiological literature and from related areas of observational research were reviewed in search of examples of selection processes, used terminology and description of the underlying mechanisms. Results We classified the identified selection processes in three dimensions: i) selection level (selection at the population level vs. study-specific selection), ii) type of mechanism (selection in exposure vs. selection in population composition), iii) timing of the selection (at exposure entry, during exposure/follow-up or post-outcome). Conclusions Increased understanding of when, how, and why selection occur is an important step towards improved validity of epidemiological research.

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