What is CAWI methodology? A case study
By CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interview) we mean a data collection methodology based on the completion of an online questionnaire.
The CAWI methodology represents a very practical system for a large and fast data collection. It is an approach that proves extremely useful when conducting quantitative interviews in central locations, for example in the case of taste tests.
Each respondent is provided with a tablet from which, by clicking on a link, they can access the questionnaire to be filled in: the questionnaire is completed in perfect autonomy, answering the questions that appear on the screen. The questionnaire can have a very variable duration; in the case of the taste test it depends on the number of products to be tested and evaluated: it can go from 10 minutes, when only one product has to be evaluated, up to an hour, when the products to be evaluated are five or even more.
It is clear that the most important and delicate phase of a CAWI survey is the design of the online questionnaire: an Information Technology department is required to deal with the programming / computerization of the questionnaires.
The questionnaire must be clear, appealing and of adequate length, not too long in order not to be boring for respondents. It can include single answer questions or multiple response questions, questions with open answers, and also satisfaction evaluations using scales from 1 to 10. Images can also appear in the questionnaire, for example a concept to be evaluated.
Furthermore, the online questionnaire is able to manage the flow of questions, using filters where necessary and basing questions on the answers provided by the respondent.
The answers are automatically saved in the server and at the end of the interview, when the respondent completes the questionnaire and closes, data are ready for processing.
Normally, it is not expected that a response can be corrected or that the respondent can “go back” in the questionnaire, while it is always possible, in the event of an interruption or an involuntary closure of the program, to resume questionnaire where it was interrupted.
During the screening phase, the data of the respondents are collected and entered in a database in order to obtain the profile of each respondent. Each one is identified with a number, an ID code, which, in the case of the taste tests, will correspond to the rotation (order) of the products they will test. This ID code will appear on the tablet at the beginning of the questionnaire: this ensures perfect correspondence among the screener, the questionnaire and the rotation of the products to be tested.
This methodology of data collection, used for at least ten years now, has replaced the traditional interviews with paper questionnaires, greatly reducing costs and time for carrying out the fieldwork. It is no longer necessary to print and photocopy a considerable number of questionnaires, just as the data entry phase is no longer necessary: at the end of the fieldwork, all data are ready for analysis, it is only necessary to code open-ends and to check answer consistency.
Usually, links for online questionnaires work on all devices, PCs, tablets and smartphones. The PC is ideal especially if the questionnaire includes the evaluation of images that are more visible on this type of device; the tablet is perfect especially when there are essentially closed-ended questions in the questionnaire.
The touch screen, which until some time ago could create some difficulties, is now no longer a problem, since practically everyone, even the older ones, has become accustomed to the use of smartphones.
The disadvantages are very few and are essentially due to the need for Internet access: any connection difficulties may compromise the fieldwork.
The absence of the interviewer, as a guide or help for filling in, does not really represent a problem when the questionnaire is organized in a clear and linear way.