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Know-how: The paper-pencil method

Conduct surveys using the paper-pencil method
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What is the paper-pencil method?

The paper-pencil survey is a classic survey method used in market and employee research. The survey participants have to complete a piece of paper by hand. The online survey has largely replaced this variant of data collection by now, but under certain circumstances it is still justified and can draw on its specific strengths.

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Formerly a big step towards efficiency

The introduction of a paper questionnaire was a milestone in market research. Where previously high personnel and time costs had to be invested in conducting face-to-face interviews, the paper-pencil method offered significantly higher efficiency: The answer options could be standardised and thus made comparable – and the processing effort was completely transferred to the respondent, at least for the time required to complete the form. The influence of the interviewer, which no longer existed, led to a better observation of anonymity. This ensured that even questions of a sensitive nature were answered more readily. And finally, the wide radius of distribution by standard mail was trend-setting.

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Disadvantages of the paper-pencil survey

Today, this traditional market research tool has gone out of fashion and given way to online surveys, the reason for this being the following disadvantages:

  • High costs for printing and possibly dispatch
  • Large amount of work involved in transcribing the data (especially handwritten free texts)
  • Low response rate (in extreme cases only five per cent)

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You can view a variety of survey types and test them individually. We are continuously expanding our demo question types and present you in our demo questionnaire a selection of interactive question types and possibilities that you can realize with our survey software G3plus.

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The paper questionnaire continues to serve its purpose

Despite the negative aspects, there are still areas of application in which a questionnaire to be completed by hand on paper is the most practicable and economically best solution. For example, if the target group to be surveyed is not familiar with using a computer due to their age. Or if survey participants do not have online access or access to their e-mail inbox – in the context of an employee survey, for example, this would be production personnel, just to name one example.

Conceptual design and implementation of a Paper Pencil Survey

The concept development and the process of a survey on paper is usually effected in the following steps:

  • Questionnaire design in terms of content: All process participants develop a questionnaire that meets the survey goals and is easy to process.
  • Creation of the questionnaire print template: The completed questionnaire is adapted to the layout of the corporate identity and finalised as a print template.
  • Wording of the letter of invitation: To encourage participation, a cover letter is prepared, which is also designed in accordance with the corporate identity and corporate design of the company.
  • Print: The cover letter and the questionnaire can be printed internally or handed over to an appropriate service provider for printing. If replies are to be sent by standard mail, a reply envelope is also required.
  • Field phase: The questionnaires will be completed and collected within a certain period of time.
  • Evaluation: The questionnaires are digitised. The results are then prepared and evaluated externally or internally according to the company’s specifications.
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Suggestions for high response rates and informative value


As described above, the informative value of paper-pencil surveys often suffers from low response rates. In addition, a paper survey can hardly be checked as to whether only one participant actually fills out one sheet – and not several sheets or one “in collaboration”.


Suggestions for high response rates and informative value

You can easily counter these risks by conducting an employee survey:


Install a kind of polling station in your company for the duration of the survey. In a separate room, the employees can complete the questionnaire undisturbed and for themselves during working hours and eventually anonymously cast it into a suitable closed container. It is advisable to appoint a works council representative to supervise the project, who will ensure that each employee only receives one questionnaire, and who will be available to answer any questions that may arise during the process.

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Employee feedback with Rogator

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Paper-pencil surveys of experts

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