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computer assisted personal interviewing exampleFace-to-face or in-person interviews are one of the oldest forms of survey administration. Before the internet, mobile phones, and even landlines were widely used, most survey research was conducted through face-to-face interviews, in which an interviewer asks questions to a respondent in-person, often by going door-to-door in specific areas. Despite the availability of newer communications technologies, face-to-face research remains a popular research method due to the quality of data it can achieve. However, there are some disadvantages to the method, and in some regions of the world, face-to-face interviews can be extremely difficult to administer. Newer technologies such as Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing or CAPI aim to mitigate some of these challenges. Below we outline some advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face interviewing and explain how CAPI works.

Note: During COVID-19 GeoPoll is limiting face-to-face research and taking all necessary precautions to protect respondents and interviewers. Read this post about how face-to-face research can be transitioned to remote methods

Advantages of Face-to-Face Research

Face-to-face interviewing has several advantages that have made it one of the most relied-upon research methodologies. These include:

  • Length of Interview: Face-to-face interviews allow for lengthy questionnaires, as the respondent is more motivated to complete an in-person survey than in other methods, such as online interviews, which can easily be exited. A longer interview enables researchers to ask multiple question modules and gather more detailed open-ended responses than may be possible through online, text message, or even voice call surveys.
  • Quality of Data: Face-to-face interviews are typically thought of as producing high-quality data, especially as key demographics such as age, gender, and location cannot be falsified. Interviewers can also note non-verbal cues from the respondent within their answers. However, there are also questions around interviewer bias in face-to-face interviews, which we review below. 
  • High Response Rates: It has been found that face-to-face interviews have higher response rates than some other methodologies, however, this could be due to several factors and is not necessarily due to the in-person nature of interviews.  
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Disadvantages of Face-to-Face Interviewing

Despite the high quality of data received, some research projects are not feasible for face-to-face interviews due to the following disadvantages:

  • Cost: Face-to-face interviews are one of the costliest methods for survey research, as they involve hiring trained enumerators and sending them to multiple locations to collect data. If data is collected by pen and paper, it must be inputted once data collection is complete, adding to costs. 
  • Lengthy Complete Time: Face-to-face interviews take longer to complete than online or voice call interviews. Enumerators often travel to multiple locations to collect survey responses. The time it takes to obtain the desired sample size depends on how many enumerators are working at once and the distances they need to travel.  
  • Interviewer Bias: The presence of an in-person interviewer may introduce bias in some cases. Bias may occur with sensitive questions which the respondent does not want to answer in person, or if the interviewer reads a question in a leading way.  
  • Data Entry Errors: Face-to-face interview responses were traditionally recorded using pen and paper, also known as PAPI. Using pen and paper, there is a high likelihood of human error when inputting answers or lost responses, which can harm data quality. 

How Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing Works

To mitigate some of the issues mentioned above, many researchers have transitioned to using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI), where in-person enumerators read questions and record answers on a mobile application, usually through a tablet device. CAPI platforms reduce the chance of enumerator error, both while administrating the interview and when inputting data.

While the interview is ongoing, CAPI applications can automatically route to the next question based on the respondent’s answer, ensuring no questions are skipped. Data is collected and stored within the application, eliminating the need for data to be inputted manually at a later date. CAPI also allows research organizations to track the progress of individual interviewers remotely, enabling them to see if an interviewer is taking a longer-than-expected time to complete each interview, or is recording unusual response patterns.

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Other advantages of CAPI research include the ability to voice record, show picture or video content to respondents, and track the GPS location of interviewers.

Conduct CAPI Research in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America with GeoPoll 

Face-to-face interviewing can be especially challenging in emerging markets such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Populations in these areas are often very dispersed and may speak multiple languages or dialects. A lack of formal roads and address systems can also make face-to-face interviewing in emerging markets even more time-consuming than it is already.

GeoPoll is experienced administering face-to-face interviews in emerging regions through our proprietary CAPI application, which was specifically designed for use in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. GeoPoll works with in-country partners to recruit and train interviewers who can administer surveys in multiple languages, and can remotely track and report back to clients on project progress. Our CAPI platform allows for various question types and advanced skip logic, and gives us full control over questionnaire scripting. GeoPoll’s CAPI application also includes offline abilities, so interviews do not need to be connected to the internet to record answers.

To learn more about GeoPoll’s CAPI capabilities or to request a project quote, please contact us here.