MrWeb's Omnibus Station

What is CAPI?

CAPI stands for Computer Aided Personal Interviewing. An interviewer recruiting respondents in the street or visiting people in their own homes can enter data directly into a laptop PC using a keyboard or pen. As with CATI interviews, CAPI can be set up so that as each answer is input, the next question appears on the screen for the interviewer to ask. Answers can be input as text where they are open-ended, or selected from menus when the answers have been precoded, ie there is a choice of a fixed number of answers. Sophisticated routing programmes are available which select the next question on the basis of the previous answer, or of combinations of previous answers.

CAPI gives the added benefit of stimulus material, such as full motion video, on screen - the PC can be shown to the respondent, and there is the potential for many other forms of interaction as multimedia technology (and familiarity with it) develops. Screens can be used to show options, products, packaging, advertisements etc... to the respondent.

As with CATI, as soon as the interview is complete, or in some cases during the interview, the information is stored in a database and analysis can be carried out immediately without the need to re-enter data. This also offers potential benefits in avoiding wrong routing by interviewers.

CAPI is now used for many Omnibus interviews although many agencies still work with pen and paper, either for commercial reasons (laptops are a big capital outlay when one has a fieldforce of 1,000 interviewers, and training of interviewers to use the technology, often differently for each survey, is another major consideration) or because pen and paper may still be perceived as more flexible / quicker for certain surveys. An example of the latter might be an unstructured interview where respondents are given greater control over the subjects discussed.