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Applying an extended theoretical framework for data collection mode to health services research

Michael R Robling13*, David K Ingledew2, Giles Greene3, Adrian Sayers4, Chris Shaw5, Lesley Sander6, Ian T Russell7, John G Williams7 and Kerenza Hood13

Author Affiliations

1 South East Wales Trials Unit, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Neuadd Meirionydd, Heath Park, Cardiff, Wales, CF14 4YS, UK

2 School of Psychology, Bangor University, Bangor, Wales, LL57 2DG, UK

3 Department of Primary Care & Public Health, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Neuadd Meirionydd, Heath Park, Cardiff, Wales, CF14 4YS, UK

4 Academic Rheumatology, University of Bristol, Avon Orthopaedic Centre, Southmead Hospital, Bristol, England, BS10 5NB, UK

5 Faculty of Health, Sport & Science, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, Wales, CF37 1DL, UK

6 Support Unit for Research Evidence, Cardiff University, Heath Park Campus, Cardiff, Wales, CF14 4XN, UK

7 School of Medicine, Swansea University Singleton Park, Swansea, Wales, SA2 8PP, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:180  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-180

Published: 24 June 2010



Over the last 30 years options for collecting self-reported data in health surveys and questionnaires have increased with technological advances. However, mode of data collection such as face-to-face interview or telephone interview can affect how individuals respond to questionnaires. This paper adapts a framework for understanding mode effects on response quality and applies it to a health research context.


Data collection modes are distinguished by key features (whether the survey is self- or interviewer-administered, whether or not it is conducted by telephone, whether or not it is computerised, whether it is presented visually or aurally). Psychological appraisal of the survey request will initially entail factors such as the cognitive burden upon the respondent as well as more general considerations about participation. Subsequent psychological response processes will further determine how features of the data collection mode impact upon the quality of response provided. Additional antecedent factors which may further interact with the response generation process are also discussed. These include features of the construct being measured such as sensitivity, and of the respondent themselves (e.g. their socio-demographic characteristics). How features of this framework relate to health research is illustrated by example.


Mode features can affect response quality. Much existing evidence has a broad social sciences research base but is of importance to health research. Approaches to managing mode feature effects are discussed. Greater consideration must be given to how features of different data collection approaches affect response from participants in studies. Study reports should better clarify such features rather than rely upon global descriptions of data collection mode.