CAPI methodology (Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing) is an interviewing technique where the respondent or the interviewer uses a computer or a mobile device to answer an (often) offline survey.

It’s similar to CATI methodology (Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing) but it differs from it for the actual presence of the interviewer. Because of that, CAPI surveys are often defined as Face-to-Face surveys.

CAPI surveys could be considered as the natural evolution of the traditional paper interview (PAPI). In other words, 2.0 evolution that can remarkably facilitate all different interviewing phases still preserving an important and peculiar feature of the old technique. The interviewer’s presence on the field helps the interviewee to fill in the questionnaire.


CAPI and offline survey: main fields of application

Let’s see now when choosing the CAPI technique rather than other techniques is a winning move, if not the only move.

Surveys in shopping centers: you can reach a heterogeneous and wide target. You can collect responses easily and rapidly;

Exit-poll: CAPI methodology is the most used for this specific type of survey. You can still reach an extended target and you don’t have to comply with restrictions based on age or education, for example;

High profile categories: when the target is a high profile professional figure (like MDs) completing the interview can be a difficult task because of their limited availability. This issue can be overcome when the interviewer schedules an appointment and goes to the respondent to interview him/her;

Mystery shopping: CAPI surveys allow mystery client to collect information in a discreet way completing the questionnaire directly on his/her smartphone as if he/she’d be texting someone. They can access the offline survey to collect their first impressions on the service or product they need to evaluate.


Not all software is the same

There’s a lot of software solutions in the market specifically created to administer CAPI surveys.

But, a lot of software is not able to carry on data collection in offline mode. Being able to collect data and complete questionnaires with no internet connection is a big advantage.

Besides this, another feature that distinguishes advanced solutions is the compatibility with the most used devices. In fact, until a few years ago research institutes had to invest a lot of economical resources providing laptops or tablets to each interviewer to complete interviews.

Nowadays best software products are completely compatible with most-used smartphones, tablets, and operative systems: companies can save a lot, with interviewers directly downloading the app on their device. Convenient and economic.

IdSurvey is developed to fulfill your requests. Ease of use of the CAPI app for each level of interviewer (thanks to its high user-friendliness) with no need for training, resulting in savings for the company.

IdSurvey allows to carry on single surveys with multiple methodologies that is to say with a mixed-mode.


Offline and online CAPI survey

Before you purchase your CAPI survey software it’s important to get this difference. An internet connection may not always be available when you go on the field. For this reason it’s crucial to choose a software that has an app able to work in offline mode too. This type of app is called CAPI offline and lets you collect data with no connection at all. It’s possible to collect as many survey data as you want and then synchronize them with the main server when you have a data or WiFi connection.

Apps that don’t support offline mode cause a lot of issues for CAPI methodology. Sometimes they’re erroneously called CAPI online and they’re not useful at all for this methodology. Quite often they’re developed using existing material from CATI or CAWI interface: the investment of the software firm is minimal but the result is useless. It’s really important not to fall into a trap and be sure that the software you’re purchasing supports real CAPI – that is to say – an offline app.


Anonymous distribution

Anonymous distribution is when you administer the face to face interview to random people, like supermarket or store shoppers, voters at polling stations, visitors in a museum or trade show or passersby in the street.
At the beginning (or end) of the interview you usually request some personal data as the name, surname and telephone number. This procedure is useful to create a list of respondents for other surveys or for market research actions.


Distribution to an existing list of respondents

This distribution mode makes CAPI methodology really similar to the web surveys except for the fact that the respondent is interviewed face-to-face and without a connection.
The interviewer has to select the contact from the list before starting the interview with CAPI system.


CAPI surveys: main features

During this field research, the interviewer and respondent are one in front of the other (face-to-face mode): the data collector has to insert answers with the possibility to confront with the respondent and clarify possible concerns.

Also, CAPI can represent an additional support to data collectors: being able to interview various types of people means getting a wider and more representative sample.



The most important benefit is the opportunity to interview everybody. A CAPI survey guarantees a better quality of collected data.

Also, another considerable benefit is convenience. Data inserted into the mobile device are sent automatically to the server so that they can be immediately available to export or to use for reports.

Convenience, ease of use, and interviewer’s presence on field permit to reach a wider target and extremely heterogeneous.

Thanks to most advanced software, like IdSurvey, recording GPS coordinates or the interview’s audio allows a better but essential control on interviewers work.

Lastly, in mystery shopping surveys, mystery clients can shoot a photo and insert it automatically in the questionnaire.


Research and results

A lot of researches tried to understand what is the best methodology for interviews. Results suggest that computer-assisted methodologies tend to enhance the quality of data.

To sum up, using CAPI methodology you avoid errors in the questionnaire compiling. In fact, you’re able to engage individuals that may be difficult to interview. Being that, you’re able to obtain a more representative sample compared to other methodologies.

The question is: is this methodology suitable for the survey you’re working on?

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