Using mobile devices for surveys

The Challenge 

The National Science Foundation has provided a grant to Westat to examine 3 issues related to conducting surveys using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

  • Can study respondents use them effectively?  Some respondents may be unfamiliar with using these devices, including the touch screen technology.
  • Can the small screen display enough information?  Studies of web-based surveys show that any information that respondents need to use should be immediately visible to them.
  • Will respondents be less candid?  Respondents are willing to reveal sensitive information about themselves in computerized, self-administered surveys. Will using a tablet or smartphone hinder or bolster that openness?

Our Solutions 

  • Our study will include multiple experiments, embedded in a survey of about 600 U.S. households, to examine these questions.
    • The first experiment will examine participants’ responses when using laptop computers, tablets, or smartphones to survey questions about health.
    • The second experiment will look at participants’ responses when using the laptops, tablets, or smartphones to questions about sensitive topics, including alcohol use, smoking habits, and illicit drug use.
    • We will also ask respondents to rate the sensitivity of the survey questions. We want to find out if the type of device they are taking the survey on affects their perceived sensitivity of the questions.

The Results 

  • We will develop new guidelines for using mobile devices to do surveys, based on the results of these studies.
  • We will report our findings at conferences and in journal articles.
  • Our findings will help researchers design surveys for use on mobile devices.

Our Client 

National Science Foundation (NSF)