Pen-and-Paper Personal Interviews (PAPI)

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The Pen-and-Paper Personal Interview (PAPI) method describes any survey where the initial dataset is collected using pen-and-paper rather than electronic devices. While many large-scale surveys now use Computer-Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI) methods, pen-and-paper has several key advantages over electronic methods that may be important to the researcher.

Advantages of Pen-and-Paper

Unlike computer-assisted interviews, pen-and-paper methods require nearly no technical expertise to implement, and leave a great deal of flexibility in the implementation of the survey design. Pen-and-paper surveys can be designed in Excel or Word by someone with no advanced programming skills.

This means that pen-and-paper surveys can be iterated very quickly at small scale, making them ideal for data collection pilots where continual redevelopment or reorganization of surveys is expected to take place. With CAPI surveys, even a small modification can cause the entire survey to fail to compile, and version control is typically quite weak, meaning that a great deal of time may be lost to making small iterative modifications.

Pen-and-paper surveys are also guaranteed to produce a permanent primary record of data collection. Each form can be individually numbered during collection and stamped/signed by supervisors during field-side quality assurance. Depending on the desired workflow, pen-and-paper surveys can be digitized in various fashions, including by scanning and data entry; directly via Excel or a database program; automatically using a tool such as ODK Scan; or online using an interface like SurveyCTO.

Pen-and-paper surveys are also typically easier for enumerators or respondents to give open-ended or qualitative responses to, since computer-assistance may be unable to handle local languages, or auto-correcting features of tablets may garble inputs in settings where English spellings are highly variant.

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