Data Collection Tour

What happens to my questionnaire after I mail it in?

Welcome to the Channing Laboratory, home of the Nurses’ Health Study. This is where all your questionnaires arrive to be sorted, counted, and processed by our research staff. We receive as many as 10,000 completed questionnaires each day.





To handle all of this mail we employ approximately 25 Research Data Coders who are responsible for sorting, counting, and coding the incoming questionnaires.





This is a typical day’s mail after it has been sorted and counted into bundles of 50 surveys.






After each day’s mail is counted, it is stored in our filing system to await coding. Here, Project Manager Gary Chase, shows the new staff how to store the newly arrived envelopes.






Finally, the mail is away.






The next step is to process the forms. The staff open the mail and carefully review each form. The Coders check for incomplete surveys, make sure each form is filled out in pencil (so that the marks will be captured by our scanner), and assign codes for cereal, vitamin, and margarine brands.





When we encounter a form which needs extra attention, the staff places the form in a specially labeled “Problem Box” to await review by a senior staff member or investigator.

Sometimes it is necessary to write back to the respondent to clarify an answer.

Capturing your answers correctly is our main goal.




After a form is fully coded, it is ready to be scanned. Shown here, our scanner can read as many as 7,000 forms per hour. In addition to converting the pencil-filled bubbles into numeric data, the scanner captures a digital image of each form which we archive and keep forever.





Following scanning, the data is then reviewed in our verification process. In this step, a senior staff member uses a computer program to examine the data, looking for errors or omissions. The program displays the data so that the operator can compare the answers that were captured by the scanner against the actual paper questionnaire. In this way any missed marks or questionable answers can be caught before the data is permanently saved.