Technology Effects: Do CAPI or PAPI Interviews Take Longer?
Marek Fuchs, Mick P. Couper, and Sue Ellen Hansen
The transition from paper-based personal interviews to computer-assisted
personal interviewing (CAPI) is already well underway. Much of the early
research focused on operational issues and concerns about data quality
differences between the methods. Attention is now being turned to more detailed
assessments of specific features of the new data collection technology and its
impact on the survey process.
This article deals with the question of relative administration of
survey questions between paper and pencil and CAPI modes. Using data from a
series of interviews (14 PAPI and 37 CAPI) using the National Health Interview
Survey (NHIS) instrument conducted as part of usability testing of the
instrument, a large number (over 2,200) of comparable items from the
socio-demographic part of the instrument were subjected to detailed time and
These data allow us to examine reasons for time differences across the
modes. Where items are comparable in terms of design across modes, we find that
CAPI takes slightly longer than PAPI, largely due to the speed of typing versus
writing. However, most of the time differences found can be attributed to
differences of design between paper and pencil and CAPI, rather than to the
Since the early days of computer-assisted interviewing (CAI), the
issue of whether computer-assisted interviews take longer than equivalent paper
and pencil surveys has been discussed. Evidence in both directions can be found
in the literature. To what extent does the time taken to administer survey
questions depend on the technology (paper or computer) used? Or does the
duration of an interview depend on the particular design features employed? In
this article we explore this issue in detail, at the level of individual
questions. Our goal is to understand whether and if so why the time taken to
complete items on paper and on computer may differ.
CAPI; interview length; instrument design; computer-assisted interviewing.