The features of the Center for Applied Research's modern Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) laboratory augment and extend the benefits of telephone interviewing as a data gathering technique. With a paperless CATI system, interviewers sit at a computer work station, the interview schedule appears on the computer screen, and the interviewer inputs data from respondents directly into a computer file. The computer continuously monitors the sample and interviewing process and automatically dials pre-loaded telephone numbers for the interviewers.
The CATI system's generation of periodic reports during the fielding phase of a study allows for continuous cost monitoring. The CATI supervisor is constantly aware of the numbers of completed interviews, refusals, out-of-service telephone numbers and the like and is able to use the system to schedule efficiently call-back appointments and the redialing of "busy" telephone numbers.
Finally, the CATI system promotes data quality. The system allows researchers to develop interview protocols that are more complex than those possible using a mailed questionnaire, which the respondent completes with no assistance from an interviewer. Interviewer error also decreases with the CATI system because the computer prompts the interviewer for only those questions that are appropriate for a specific respondent, and because the computer is programmed to be "unwilling" to accept responses that are other than those designed for the question at hand. Similarly, the system monitors the behavior of interviewing staff making it exceedingly difficult to "kitchen table" interviews, that is, to fabricate data for imaginary respondents.
Telephone interviewing is itself of course, is a cost saver when components of the target population are widely dispersed geographically or when population densities are low. The monitoring of the cost is enhanced by the ability of the system to generate periodic reports on the progress of the study through the field phase. The strengths of the CATI system dovetail well with the research needs of administrators and researchers of CMU.
For more information or cost estimates, contact the Center for Applied Research and Rural studies at 989 774 2572 or Fax 989 774 1844. Or, contact the Dr. Mary S.Senter, Professor of Sociology, is the Coordinator of the CATI Lab. She can be contacted at