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Clinkinbeard -

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Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology



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The study of developmental and life-course changes of an individual necessitates longitudinal data. Traditional panel designs, however, that tend to collect data annually or less often may not reflect change experienced by individuals especially in periods of transition. The first year of college likely is one such period in which change takes place at a rapid pace.


We followed approximately 100 residential college students across their freshman year. In an attempt to capture the changes taking place in friendships, activities, and alcohol use, we used a traditional panel design in which we administered structured surveys at the beginning, middle, and end of the academic year. We extended this design by employing a “burst” design to capture data frequently and in real time. Respondents were sent a text message with a link to a short survey asking about their activities. They received our text across 3-day intervals, multiple times within each day, approximately every month of the school year.


In this paper, we discuss our approach and demonstrate the utility of burst designs. We show how such data collection schemes can complement more traditional designs by comparing information collected with the two approaches to show what could have been lost had we relied only on surveys at three time points.


The developmental transitions of college students occurred at a faster rate than our panel design could capture. Our findings suggest that researchers interested in a wide variety of transitions should employ burst designs alongside other traditional data collection techniques.


This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:

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