GAO Management News

Vol. 34, No. 24, Week of March 19-23, 2007

E-Supplements Growing in Popularity as Means of Enhancing Report Message

Reflecting the growing popularity of electronic supplements as a means of enhancing GAO’s products, QCI has posted guidance for producing them in the EAGLE.

Electronic supplements (e-supplements) are Internet-only products that provide information or materials that are not critical to a reader’s understanding of a report, but which some readers may find useful to have to provide context to the report. Examples include the results for all questions of a survey (along with a copy of the blank questionnaire); searchable data bases; multiple or lengthy case studies; and visuals such as additional photographs or graphics or extensive charts and graphs. To date, some 50 e-supplements have been issued, according to ARM’s web services group, which plays a key role in their production.

The QCI guidance spells out team roles and responsibilities, e-supplement format, publishing procedures, and ARM’s and others’ roles and responsibilities. For more information, contact Mike Motley, 202-512-8126, or John Finedore, 202-512-6248.

ARM’s “Toolbox” Facilitates E-Supplements

Web tools developed by ARM’s web services group facilitate the production of e-supplements, Alice Feldesman told the managing directors in a recent briefing.

By using Questionnaire Programming Language (QPL) to conduct web-based surveys and the E-Supplement Generator to produce a report-ready summary of the web survey data, ARM can assist teams in preparing e-supplements.

QPL was developed in the mid-1980s to support telephone interviews. Kevin Dooley of ARM adapted the program for use as an interactive survey instrument made available to respondents through the Internet (see Management News, April 26-30, 2004). GAO staff members participate in QPL surveys when they complete the employee feedback survey, participate in EAC elections, apply for a student loan repayment, or evaluate a CPL course. GAO has also made the web survey software available to other organizations through its web site (http://qpl.gao.gov/index.htm).

QPL has been used in a wide variety of web survey designs—ranging from surveys of 50 state agency officials to a survey of 12,000 military academy faculty and students. Some engagements have required multiple surveys to obtain perspectives from several sides (i.e., federal, state, and city government officials). QPL has also been used to support telephone surveys and structured interviews (especially in work related to Hurricane Katrina), as well as to facilitate obtaining the views of members of expert panels. According to Feldesman, ARM is currently working on 68 surveys.

By using QPL in conducting 515 web-based surveys covering 199,700 respondents since 2001, GAO has avoided millions in contract costs, Feldesman noted.

The E-Supplement Generator, developed by ARM, ISTS, and KS, uses the QPL web survey files to facilitate building the summary tables for a technical appendix to a printed product or a separate web-only product or e-supplement.

Feldesman noted that using QPL to conduct web-based surveys requires more advance planning, but reaps benefits in terms of quick turnaround. “Survey data are available immediately—with no keypunching or verification steps required. The team can conduct real-time and/or open-ended analysis on the web site. QPL is scalable—it takes the same effort to survey 50 states as to survey 12,000 at the military academies. Importantly, survey data are protected through encryption, firewall hardware, and real-time backup hardware,” she said. QPL has recently been upgraded to include a content analysis function to systematically analyze responses made to open-ended questions. The web survey forms and administrative support pages are also fully accessible to visually-impaired users in compliance with federal accessibility standards.

ARM’s web services group is meeting with GAO mission teams, administrative support units, and project teams to explore wider use of web-based surveys. For more information, contact Alice Feldesman, 202-512-4927.