Compute or paper?

Computer or Paper?

If you are extremely sure that computer methods are preferable to paper methods for your interviewing needs, please proceed to the next page, Building Questionnaires.

There are barriers to collecting behavioral study data via a computer. Some of the more prominent:

  • Will computerization create issues with my IRB?
  • Will my data be secure?
  • What happens if changes are required as the study progresses?
  • Will the system work reliably?
  • The time and effort that must be devoted to learning a new system is precious. Could it be better spent elsewhere?

Without doubt you can think of other potential barriers. As recipients of multiple NIH SBIR grants, we are sensitive to these issues. We will do our best to provide you with thoughtful answers.

Will computers save money?

If you consider only direct costs, probably not - at least at first. Setting up a new system incurs costs immediately, while benefits become tangible later, if at all. A small pilot study, or even a larger study may not realize any direct cost benefit from computerization.

So what are the advantages?

Our researcher clients frequently cite certain problems caused by paper-based instruments. It is easy for errors to occur - forgetting to mark a response, incorrectly following a skip pattern, incomplete or incorrect transcription to statistical software - and these can be expensive to correct. These types of problems disappear when a study is appropriately automated.

Twenty-way skips, for example, might be difficult to administer with paper forms, but pose no problems for a computer questionnaire. Complex questionnaires become easier to use.

We have seen many questionnaires that require training and interpretation to use correctly. In these cases, the computer's capabilities, properly harnessed, can provide mechanisms that reduce training time and the potential for inconsistent administration.

The instant availability of data is an important benefit to computerization. This creates a feedback loop that may suggest changes at an early stage of the research.

The next page describes building CASIC Builder™ questionnaires.