Research Data Collection Methods: Paper vs. Tablets

Deciding between paper or tablet data collection for your next research project?

A new study by The Nature Conservancy shows tablet data collection to be a clear winner. Since research data collection methods can be complex, the organization decided to study the costs and time associated with both paper and tablet data collection. They administered the same survey on paper and again on a tablet using QuickTapSurvey — a leading digital survey tool. Tablet data collection using QuickTapSurvey proved to be cheaper and faster than traditional paper-based research.

Read below for more details on the findings of this study.

research data collection methods offline survey

Tablets cut costs by 74% 

Compared to paper-based data collection, the costs per completed interview were reduced by using QuickTapSurvey as the tablet-based data collector. As shown in the table below, there were two paper-based data collections costing $17,778 and $32,955. Compared with the costs associated with QuickTapSurvey which cost $9,706 for this research project, it is clear that tablet-based data collection is the more cost effective method.

tablet surveys much cheaper

Reasons for cost-saving

  • “Avoiding the double entry of data needed with a paper survey appears to be the primary reason for the cost savings.”
  • “Restricting data entry to only valid responses eliminated out-of-range data entry in the tablet-based survey and minimized the need for data cleaning.”
  • “On timesaving, the touchscreen of the tablets allowed for data entry with a single touch for multiple-choice questions. The skip logic and branching of the survey were also invisible to surveyors, and thus no time was needed to move to the next question in the survey. The result was that surveyors could complete more surveys in a given time.”

Tablets cut time by 46%

Tablet-based data collection had less errors and faster data entry. The tablet-based surveys had approximately 20% more questions than paper-based surveys, yet surveyors completed on average 63% more interviews per day using QuickTapSurvey. This reduction in data collection time also helped to reduce costs. Craig’s team believes that this time saving came from faster data entry, and less errors during data entry, as responses were recorded directly on the tablet device.

Tablets reduced errors

As responses were recorded directly on the tablet device, there was no need for data entry which reduced the likelihood of errors.

“Tablet studies found fewer errors overall in the tablet data than the paper data. This suggests that tablet-based data collection can be of comparable or better quality than paper-based data collection.”

Using tablet made it easier to spot the falsification of data.

“Falsification of data in surveys is a common surveyor issue that can undermine data reliability. Tablet-based surveys made it easier to spot falsified data, and during the data cleaning, one interview was discarded because it was less than two minutes long followed by a two-hour break.”




David Wogan
David Wogan was an Online Marketing Specialist at QuickTapSurvey in 2014. Have a story idea? Email us at