The ultimate goal of a survey is to provide organizations and businesses with the information necessary for future decision making. While that requires accurate and timely data analysis, survey responses must also be converted into an electronic format before the automated data analysis process begins. Experienced professionals and/or advanced technologies are used to capture the data from paper surveys and translate it into information that is analyzable via specialized software.
Data capture is the term that refers to the conversion, or digitization, of information provided on completed paper surveys into an electronic format to facilitate analysis and reporting. This may be accomplished through an automated process or by manual keying of the survey responses. Once data is in a usable electronic format, various statistical techniques are applied to analyze it.
While data capture is still performed manually in some cases, automation greatly increases its speed and accuracy. Optimal mark recognition (OMR), optical character recognition (OCR) and intelligent character recognition (ICR) scanning software automate survey data capture by collecting, recognizing and interpreting the marks and comments entered by the survey respondents. The end result is a highly useable electronic version of the paper survey answers.