Using Stata for questionnaire development
In studies which collect survey data, the investigator(s) often construct the questionnaire using a word processor and then deliver it to a survey organization which translates it into an electronic data collection instrument (e.g., CAPI or CATI). Unfortunately, this approach suffers from the following problems: (1) a word processor is not well-suited to the development of a complex questionnaire, (2) time is wasted and errors may occur when translating the questionnaire into CAPI, and (3) background information about the individual questions which is often relevant for analysis of the data (e.g., question source and rationale, scoring instructions, etc.) is not preserved in the final data file. We shall describe a system we are developing which permits an investigator to construct a questionnaire in Stata by representing questions as variables and using labels and characteristics to specify attributes such as question text, response categories, and background information together with specifications regarding the structure of the interview (e.g., skip patterns and loops). The resulting .dta file is then automatically translated into a variety of useful forms, including a human-readable version of the questionnaire and a format that may be imported directly into CAPI. The file also serves as a shell into which the actual data may be placed so that researchers analyzing the data have easy access to question attributes.
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