9 Top Tips for Converting Paper-Based Forms to Paperless Questionnaires

Here are some tips from ICT Works both for converting existing paper forms into digital forms, as well has how to formulate your questions to get the best responses.

There are some organizations that are collecting data for the first time and they begin with digital methods. In most instances, however, DataWinners users are transitioning from paper-based data collection to digital Questionnaires. Follow these tips and you will achieve the efficiency of paperless data collection, but also better data from well designed forms.

These tips originally appeared on ICT Works and are republished here with permission.

Note that skip logic is available in DataWinners Advanced Questionnaires, but not in Basic Questionnaires, Polls, or SMS Questionnaires.


  1. Be data-driven. Think about how you want to examine and interact with the data online. Think about how the data will appear on the backend of the system when designing questionnaires. Make sure that both Programs Teams and M&E Teams are involved in this process.
  2. Be selective about your questions. Determine what you need to collect vs. what might be interesting to know. Avoid making your questionnaires lengthy and laborious. Think about what the answers are providing to both you and your team. For example, rather than asking a generic question such as “How many people are in your household?” you might ask a more project specific question such as “How many children under the age of 2 years old do you have in your household?”
  3. Think about each question individually. Remember that a mobile device can only ask one question at a time, so matrices of questions will need to be separated.
  4. Think about the process of going through the form from a user’s perspective.
    1. Think about the natural, logical flow of conversation when ordering your questions. For example, ask respondents if they have access to a radio and if they listen to the radio before asking them about their favorite radio program.
    2. If the mobile form is to be used to facilitate a group discussion, think about what variables need to be answered before the discussion begins, such as location, and number of participants. Then think about the order of questions that makes the most sense for the group discussion facilitator inputting information into the mobile device.
  5. Identify each question type. Understand what types of questions can be asked by the mobile data collection tool you are using. For example, you may be able to choose between single answer or multiple answer question types or perhaps integer vs. decimal numeric question types. When drafting your mobile forms, make sure to identify what type of question each variable is.
  6. Utilize skip logics enabled in most mobile data collection tools. This will allow you to ask only relevant questions. For example, only ask questions regarding marriage if the respondent answers “married” to the “Are you married?” question.
  7. Avoid generic, vague text input questions as much as possible. When text input questions are utilized, make sure to be as specific as possible. Remember, you can use skip logics to make text input questions particularly specific. For example, you might ask
    1. Do you have any feedback for the program?
      1. Yes
      2. No
    2. (If yes) What kind of feedback do you have?
      1. Questions
      2. Comments
      3. Suggestions
    3. (If “Questions” is selected) What question(s) do you have for X program?
  1. Determine appropriate validations conditions. Many mobile data collection tools allow you to place validation conditions on the answers input by the mobile users into the phone or tablet. This allows your staff to safeguard against erroneous or irrelevant responses. For example, you may be interviewing young people for a project. When you ask the respondents their age, you can place a validation condition on the question stating the age entered by the enumerator must be between 15 to 25 years old. If the enumerator types in 26, then the device will display a constraint message informing the enumerator that the respondent and digital input must be between 15 and 25 years old.
  2. Utilize organizational human capital. Be sure to liaise with any ICT4D staff or consult any existing ICT resources in your organization!

Once your organization has drafted mobile-ready forms, it is time to start devoting time and resources to building staff capacity to use these mobile data collection tools. Best of luck in your organization’s transitions! Stay tuned for more ideas on these top tips next week on ICTworks.

Natasha Beale is the ICT4D Specialist at Equal Access International. She has led the transition to mobile Monitoring and Evaluation techniques for Equal Access field offices. She also manages Equal Access’s use of mobile technology such as SMS and IVR for audience engagement in conjunction with EA media activities in the field. She has previously worked for the mobile data collection company Dimagi in India.


Thanks to Natasha Beale and ICT Works for permission to repost.