The Survey Information Management Services, or SIMS Unit, of the Center for Violence Prevention & Community Safety provides a full range of survey research support using the latest technology in web, email, and paper-based machine scan-able forms.


The Survey Information Management Services (SIMS) Unit of the Center for Violence Prevention & Community Safety offers researchers, educators, public agencies, and community organizations survey design expertise and advanced technology to support their survey and questionnaire based information needs.

The resources offered by the SIMS Unit include the most advanced software and hardware for creating, scanning, and managing both Optical Mark Read (OMR) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). These advanced tools allow the SIMS Unit to create machine scan-able forms from plain paper, giving clients the flexibility to customize their instrument with instructions, graphic and image import/export, individual form bar-coding, and incorporated OCR for open-ended response categories. The capabilities of the SIMS Unit system will allow researchers significant latitude in customizing a machine scan-able instrument that not only decreases costs and turn-around time for data entry and processing over traditional methods, but also provides 99.9% data entry read accuracy.

Instrument Design

The Survey Information Management Services (SIMS) Unit has developed numerous surveys and questionnaires used in a wide variety of settings and with diverse populations, including schools, jails, criminal justice practitioners, teachers, and the general public. SIMS Unit experts have developed instruments designed to be administered by trained interview personnel, or self-administered, and for different age and education levels. You may not require any technical assistance in the design of your questions and responses, or you may have a broad concept and would like the SIMS Unit to guide you through the design and creation of an entire instrument from scratch – whatever your technical assistance or expertise needs are, the SIMS Unit can assist you.   

Instruments can be designed and printed in single- or double-sided format, multi-part forms, or in booklets up to 120 pages. The Optical Mark Read (OMR) technology allows the use of a variety of formats for closed-ended responses to questions, including, but not limited to single character alpha-numeric, numeric, date, Likert Scales. grids, and full sentence text responses. The Unit can also import and use personalized images to customize your forms. The images might be company logos, instructional diagrams, or maps – whatever is necessary to customize your instruments in distinctive ways. 

Machine Scanning Technology

The Survey Information Management Services (SIMS) Unit has additional support software that manages the hardware scanner, the processing and scanning of completed forms, and the export of electronic data files directly into various text file formats such as MS Excel®, SPSS®, and other leading statistical analysis software packages.

Many people are familiar with the old-fashioned Scantron machines, with their preprinted bubble sheets and #2 pencils. The scanning system used by the SIMS Unit is the 21st century version of that same tried-and-true technology.

The SIMS Unit scanner is a closely linked hardware device that will read instruments completed not just with pencil, but with virtually any color pen or marker. The scanner is capable of processing 2,200 sheets per hour and can scan both sides of a form simultaneously – no flipping the sheets over and feeding through again – and will sort successfully scanned forms separate from those with errors or those requiring editing, without needing to pause the scanning of the entire batch.

As an added benefit, the SIMS Unit can provide an electronic archive of scanned instruments – eliminating the need to retain and store hardcopies. Every instrument scanned can be retained with an electronic image of the instrument. These images can be retained in batch file format, allowing the client to keep copies of every completed instrument without the need for physical storage space.

Additional Services

The Survey Information Management Services (SIMS) Unit can design instruments for a variety of delivery methods: web-based; email; paper; or any combination. We’ll handle all of the printing demands in-house, can coordinate direct return mail of paper-based surveys straight to the SIMS Unit for faster processing, and we can handle extensive open-ended responses or qualitative data through electronic image capture and hands-on review and editing.

You decide the level of assistance and support you need from SIMS Unit. While the primary benefit of working with the SIMS Unit is the creation and scoring of machine scan-able surveys and instruments, we can help you at every stage of the process, including:

  • Developing original questions and responses to suit your needs;
  • Identifying existing valid and reliable instruments;
  • Designing and formating the instrument;
  • Advising and developing methodology;
  • Assisting with Institutional Review Board (IRB) consent scripts;
  • Administering or distributing the questionnaire or survey;
  • Analyzing the data; and
  • Creating and disseminating reports and/or findings.


Costs are dependent on the level of services required, the length of the survey or questionnaire, the type of responses (closed or open-ended), the delivery or collection method, and the sample size and source. For a cost estimate, or free consultation, please contact David Choate, via email or 602-496-1473.