The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Increasing the quality of your bioarchaeological data through the use of tablet-based software


Interdepartmental Archaeology Program, UCLA

Saturday All day, Clinch Concourse Add to calendar

In bioarchaeological research design, the quality of data is fundamentally based on the precision, accuracy, and quantity of data collected during fieldwork. My research focuses on developing data collection software utilizing Open Data Kit ( to maximize the quality of data through the use of mobile devices and tablets. I have developed an application available for any Android-based device which standardizes the order and instructions for data collection utilizing pre-established bioarchaeological methods outlined in Buikstra and Ubelaker (1994) as well as the Global History of Health Project codebook.

In order to assess the efficacy of this application, I conducted a comparison study with traditional paper forms. Skulls were observed on both paper and on the tablet by a group of volunteer undergraduates who have taken at least one introductory Osteology course. I measured the amount of time per entry, number of improperly entered or missing fields, and the interobserver variability in cranial metrics. Students saved on average over four minutes per entry while using the tablet. They also made at least three fewer errors in data collection while using the tablet. Finally, there was on average 3-5% less interobserver variability per cranial metric recorded.

Consequently, this program increases the quality of data while also decreasing the amount of time needed to record an element or individual. Finally, the tablet is advantageous over paper forms since it can automatically record timestamps and GPS coordinates, making it an extremely effective tool for survey.

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