CSAQ stands for Computerized Self-Administered Questionnaire. It is an executable computerized questionnaire contained on a diskette that respondents install and run on their personal computer. The automated questionnaire controls the flow of survey questions, provides on-screen instructions and help, includes edit checks, and reconciliation of data items performed as the respondent enters data. It also has importing and printing capabilities. The respondent may return the completed questionnaire either by mailing the diskette or by electronically transmitting the data to the Census Bureau. A CSAQ instrument has been developed for use in the 1997 Census of Retail Trade and Accommodation and Food Services Sectors.
The CSAQ replaces paper-based reporting on Census Bureau surveys. Using the CSAQ can improve the efficiency of reporting for companies and of processing the data for the Census Bureau. It can eliminate data entry costs, ensure fewer data errors, reduce paper, postage, and handling costs, and reduce the cost of storing paper documents.
Before using the CSAQ, a respondent must ensure that his/her system is IBM compatible, has Windows 3.1/95/NT, 640K memory, and at least 2 megabytes free disk space on a hard disk drive. A modem is necessary if the company decides to electronically transmit the data. The CSAQ diskette contains the communication software for transmission.
Title 13, United States Code, protects all data that businesses and individuals report to the Census Bureau. If a respondent decides to transmit data electronically, a multi-level security system protects the confidential records. First, only businesses that have agreed to report using CSAQ receive the toll-free number. Second, access through the toll-free number is password protected. Third, the computer systems receiving CSAQ data can be contacted only for CSAQ transmission. Fourth, the receiving systems do not store CSAQ records.