While not as widely used as they once were, mail and other paper surveys as scannable machine-readable forms still provide, in many cases, a reliable and cost-effective means of data collection. Thanks to online technology and some other factors, mail and paper surveys are used less frequently today than they were previously. Paper based surveys, however, still have their place in survey research and always will. Nevertheless, continued advances in online survey technology may increasingly diminish the demand.
Benefits of using paper surveys
· Mail surveys are convenient for respondents; they can complete them when and where they prefer
· Easily inserted into other customer or marketing mailing
· With customization, some people feel paper surveys offer a more personal approach
· Bulk-rate postage, automated mail preparation, large-quantity printing, and printing paper are all relatively affordable for document distribution with direct mailing services
· Provide an efficient and often the only way of targeting opinions from populations without internet access, email addresses or phone numbers, or who refuse to respond to other types of surveys
· Easily distributed to customers post transaction such as hotel or restaurant visits, training seminars, conferences, etc.
· Allow those being surveyed the chance to think about their answers in their own time
Designing, printing and processing machine readable paper surveys
Designing, producing and processing paper surveys have evolved and users of these types of survey instruments have a variety of different options available. Companies such as Scantron, Survey Systems, Data Blocks, etc. provide software applications that enable users to design and print their surveys as customized machine-readable documents. The surveys can be designed to be read by the traditional OMR (optical mark recognition), Scantron type devices or off-the-shelf image scanners which most organizations own. These software applications also create scanning templates; information passed to the scanning devices that determine respondents' choices to quantitative questions. Some of these software products also capture images of respondent free hand comments to subjective questions as well.
Machine-readable customize scan form survey–OMR technology versus Image technology
The major difference between a customized scannable survey designed for one technology or the other technology is the amount of content (survey questions, responses, demographics, etc.) that can be accommodated on a standard sheet of paper. The following are images of surveys designed based on the type of scanning technology that will be used to read these machine-readable forms:
As seen in the examples shown above, a survey document designed for OMR scanning can accommodate a much larger amount of information on a smaller sheet of paper and still be accurately read during the scanning process using OMR scanners.
WHAT SURVEY SYSTEMS CAN DO FOR YOU?
Researchers, analysts, social scientists and individuals involved in gathering data, analyzing, reporting and making recommendations like most people have a fixed amount of time that they can devote to any given survey project. Survey Systems can offer these individuals a wide range of different products and services that would enable them 100% control of the entire data collection process or to selectively use Survey Systems to provide various levels of services.
One of the decisions that would need to be made is the type of technology (OMR or Image) that would best fit the requirements of the project. In most cases, this decision is tied directly to the amount of information individuals are looking to collect. Simple surveys (small number of questions, responses, etc.) without dense demographic fields (i.e. membership ID numbers, dates, vital statistics, etc.) can best be addressed with surveys designed for image scanning. Surveys requiring large demographic fields (machine-readable name and address fields, ID numbers, etc.) are best served using surveys designed for OMR scanning.
Survey Systems provides and supports software products that address both technologies; the Magenta Suite is based on OMR technology and the Concord Suite is based on image technology. Both of these products will allow individuals to control the entire process from survey design through production, scanning and data transmission. In some situations and depending on a survey project requirements, data can also be tabulated and various types of anaylsis reports created within both the Magenta and Concord applications.
Another decision is your level of involvement in the entire survey process. Using your input on survey content, Survey Systems can design the document for either type of scanning, print the survey, distribute the surveys, process completed surveys, send you scanned results or tabulate scanned data into reports that meet your specifications. A detailed description of each of these service components associated with most survey projects can be provided upon receipt of the project specifications.
Paper survey documents will continue to have a place within the survey industry on many data collection projects that do not, for a variety of reasons, lend themselves to online or other forms of electronic data collection. Survey Systems can help you define and implement a paper based survey program that will meet your objectives in the most cost effective manner.