Correlates of Data Quality in an SMS Time Use Study: Evidence from a Validation Study

Brenner, Philip S., and John D. DeLamater
Working paper no. 2013-02


Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging is a ubiquitous technology available on the vast majority of cellphones in use in 2012. It provides a common technological denominator between mobile devices of nearly every make and model, supplying researchers an avenue to collect data without the expense and difficulty of designing specific applications for every cellphone or device on the market. SMS/text messaging was used as a method of data collection using a sample of students from a large, Midwestern university. The procedure adapted conventional time use measurement procedures to fit the device, the sample, and the behavior of interest. After answering questions on a brief Web survey, respondents were asked to text researchers for five days, updating major changes in their activities. Following data collection, data from the text condition was compared to that from a conventional (Web) survey and data from a reverse record check from campus recreation facilities to validate reports of the behavior of interest–physical exercise and activity. Findings suggest that respondents provided consistently high quality data on self-reports of the behaviors of interest. Moreover, paradata measures of text data quality (e.g., number of text messages sent, number of days with messages) predict data quality on the behavior of interest.