Paper or Pads? An Experimental Analysis of Survey Technology in West Africa

Last registered on April 20, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Paper or Pads? An Experimental Analysis of Survey Technology in West Africa
Initial registration date
April 19, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 20, 2022, 4:58 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Bucknell University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Stevenson University
PI Affiliation
Bucknell University

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Scholars in the social sciences are increasingly conducting surveys in the developing world. One major decision in the design of surveys is the choice of technology: should researchers use paper based or tablets to collect their data? This question is of interest to a wide range of scholars yet little if any research has tested if the choice matters. In many rounds of surveys, the Afrobarometer used paper surveys and then switched to using tablets as part of their process of collecting data. Does this matter? Does the technology affect the behavior of respondents and their responses to questions. We investigate this question in this paper. Based on our prior analyses, using both paper and tablets, we believe there will be important differences across the two technologies. First, we believe that survey response rates will be higher for paper based surveys than tablet surveys. Second, we believe that responses to potentially sensitive questions will be different across paper and tablets. Here we will ask respondents if they have vaccinated against COVID-19 and we expect affirmative responses will be lower for the paper survey compared to the tablet. Third, we believe that respondents will be less likely to prefer that the vaccine for COVID-19 is made and produced locally in Côte d'Ivoire when they are presented with paper based surveys than with the tablet. Fourth, we expect that respondents will claim that the national government is less concerned about their health with the paper survey than with the tablet. To test these claims, we will conduct a randomized trial in Abidjan. Eight enumerators will be randomly assigned either a paper based survey or one that will be done with a tablet. Following this assignment, enumerators will follow a random walk in different parts of the same cluster area (Adjouffou) and randomly ask people to participate in the survey.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Doces, John, Jack Goldberg and Amy Wolaver. 2022. "Paper or Pads? An Experimental Analysis of Survey Technology in West Africa." AEA RCT Registry. April 20.
Experimental Details


Intervention will be a randomly assigned technology to administer a survey. Respondents will randomly be assigned a paper survey or a tablet.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Survey response rate; COVID-19 Vaccination status; Preference for country of production; belief that national government is interested in their health
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
There will be eight enumerators each of which will be randomly assigned either a paper based survey or a tablet. Enumerators will randomly select respondents using a random walk. Respondents will thus be randomly assigned either the paper or the tablet through the random selection used by the enumerators. Enumerators will all be in the same general area and will be randomly assigned major streets to walk down. Enumerators will work individually and will be spread out so that they cannot be seen together while they are conducting the survey.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done through random selection by enumerators.
Randomization Unit
Individual will be the unit of randomization.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
400 clusters as the treatments will be assigned to each individual
Sample size: planned number of observations
400 respondents with each enumerator collecting 50
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
200 observations per treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We did not conduct a power analysis as we do not have prior observations for both survey technologies for the questions posed in this analysis.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials