Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) is a computer-assisted data collection method for replacing paper-and-pen methods of survey data collection and usually conducted at the home or business locations of the respondents using a portable personal computer such as a notebook.
As the technology advances to provide lighter computers with longer battery life and user-friendly software, CAPI will be used more often, especially for quick turnaround surveys.
With a portable computer, CAPI allows interviewers to conduct face-to-face interviews using the computer.
In CAPI, the respondent sits in front of a computer terminal and answers a questionnaire on the computer screen by using the keyboard or a mouse.
There are several user-friendly electronic packages that design questions that are easy for the respondent to understand.
Help screens and courteous error messages are also provided. The colorful screens and on-and-off-screen stimuli add to the respondent’s interest and involvement in the task.
After the interviews, the interviewers send the data to a central computer, either by data communication or by sending a data disk using regular mail.
CAPI can also include CASI (Computer Assisted Self-Interview) sessions, where the interviewer hands over the computer to the respondent for a short period. Still, he/she remains available for providing instructions and assistance whenever needed.
The role of the interviewer is a significant factor in a CAPI interview because the methodological survey literature stresses the importance of good (nonverbal) communication and harmony between interviewers and respondents.
Inexperienced interviewers may direct much of their attention to keeping the computer running and getting the answers correctly.
If using the computer weakens the relationship between the interviewer and the respondent, the interview will not be conducted optimally, and in consequence, the data quality may suffer.
Therefore, an experienced interviewer can rely on the computer for routings and complex questions sequence, and thus pay more attention to the respondents and the social processes involved in interviewing.
Sometimes, for instance, in asking sensitive questions, less eye-contact is an advantage; experienced interviewers can use the presence of a computer to their advantage by directing their attention to the screens asking sensitive questions.
This method has been classified as a personal interview technique since an interviewer is usually present to serve as a host or hostess and to guide the respondent as needed. CAPI has been used to collect data at shopping malls, conferences, and trade shows.
Another method of securing quick response data is the computer-administered telephone survey (CATS). Unlike CAPI, there is no interviewer in this method.
A computer calls the phone number, conducts the interview, places data into a file for later tabulation, and terminates the contract at a point of time programmed in advance.
The questions are voice-synthesized, and the respondent’s answer and computer timing trigger continuation or disconnect. This mode is often compared to the self-administered questionnaire and offers the advantages of a respondent’s privacy.