Social Science and Dentistry

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September 2013
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Collecting psychosocial self-report data in oral health research: impact of literacy level and computerised administration

Objectives: In oral and other health research, participant literacy levels may impact the quality of data obtained through self-report (e.g., degree of data missingness). This study addressed whether computerised administration of a battery of psychosocial instruments used in an oral health disparities research protocol yielded more complete data than paper-and-pencil administration, and aimed to determine the role of general literacy in differences in data missingness between administration types. Design: Oral health data were obtained from 1,652 adolescent and adult participants who were administered a large questionnaire battery via either paper-and-pencil or tablet personal computer. Number of unanswered items for each participant was compared across administration mode. For a subset of 171 participants who were randomised to one of the administration modes, general literacy and satisfaction with the questionnaire experience also were assessed. Results: Participants assigned to complete the oral health questionnaire battery via tablet PC were significantly more likely than those assigned to the paper-and-pencil condition to have missing data for at least one item (p < .001); however, for participants who had at least one missing item, paper-and-pencil administration was associated with a greater number of items missed than was tablet PC administration (p < .001). Across administration modes, participants with higher literacy level completed the questionnaire battery more rapidly than their lower literacy counterparts (p < .001). Participant satisfaction was similar for both modes of questionnaire administration (p ≥ .29). Conclusions: These results suggest that a certain type of data missingness may be decreased through the use of a tablet computer for questionnaire administration.

Key words: Literacy, missing data, questionnaires, surveys, self-reports

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Cameron L Randall, Daniel W McNeil, Richard J Crout, Robert J Weyant, Mary L Marazita

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  1. Collecting psychosocial self-report data in oral health research: impact of literacy level and computerised administration
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