• Chapter

Assessment of the Computer-Assisted Instrument

The conversion of the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse

(NHSDA) to computer-assisted interviewing (CAI) offered an opportunity

to improve the quality of the data collected in the NHSDA in a number of

ways. Some of these improvements were implemented easily and manifested themselves in more complete data—for example, the ability to

eliminate situations where questions were inadvertently left blank by the

respondent. However, other improvements could only be realized through

careful development and implementation of new procedures. Thorough

testing was needed to determine whether these new procedures did, in fact, result in higher quality data.

In this chapter, two significant revisions to how key NHSDA data items

are collected and the effect of these revisions on the quality of the data

obtained in the 1999 NHSDA are described. The first of these revisions was

the addition of a methodology for resolving inconsistent or unusual answers provided by the respondent. This methodology was incorporated into the collection of a large number of the data items that are considered critical to the reporting needs of the NHSDA. The second revision dealt specifically with the way data on frequency of substance use over the past 12-month period was reported. This chapter also provides a review of several basic measures of data quality including rates of Don!t Know and Refused responses, breakoff interviews, and the observational data provided by the interviewers at the conclusion of each interview. Where possible, these measures are compared between the CAI and paper-and-pencil interview (PAPI) NHSDA instruments as a means of assessing the effect of the move to CAI on data quality


Caspar, R., & Penne, M. (2001). Assessment of the Computer-Assisted Instrument. In J. Gfroerer, J. Eyerman, & JR. Chromy (Eds.), Redesigning an Ongoing National Household Survey: Methodological Issues. DHHS Publication No. SMA 03-3768. (pp. 53-84). (SMA 03-3768). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.