Simple Survey System Toolset for Computer-Assisted Interviews
Daniels, M., Bethke, A. D., & Fleischmann, D. M. (2007, May). Simple Survey System Toolset for Computer-Assisted Interviews. Presented at International Field Directors and Technologies Conference, Santa Monica, CA.
RTI International has recently developed an authoring system for generating and administering computer-assisted interviews called the Simple Survey System (SSS) that uses XML (eXtensible Markup Language. SSS defines a collection of XML tags for representing the content and format of a questionnaire, using XML in the conventional way to represent a structured, static document. However, computer-assisted interviews are not static. The set of questions presented to a given respondent may depend on his responses to prior questions and the wording of some questions may need to be customized for each interview based on previous responses. Using XML in an unconventional way, the SSS is able to represent the active processing associated with the computer-assisted interview. This unusual application of XML is accomplished by creating a set of tags that embody a simple functional programming language. The result is that all aspects of the dynamic computer-assisted interview are captured in a uniform way within a single specification document containing all the question text, response choices, skip logic, and computed variables, such as fills.SSS includes a graphical interface that is used by a research assistant to enter the specifications for a questionnaire from a text document provided by a survey designer. This interface, called the automated builder, stores the specifications in a database and generates the XML questionnaire specification file at the press of a button. The automated builder includes a test environment that will allow the research assistant to fully test the computer-assisted interview and to make real-time modifications to the interview. Additionally, it will provide complete documentation of the resulting interview data and generate the scripts necessary for an audio computer-assisted self interview. This application was developed using VB.Net technology. Because of the way XML is used to represent the complete specification of the questionnaire and the versatile functionalities of the automated builder, survey development using SSS is quick and economical. SSS has been used on several computer-assisted interviewing projects at RTI International and has proven to be a very robust, cost-effective tool.This paper describes the SSS and the automated builder. It also discusses how SSS was used very successfully on one project at RTI International.