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Deeply Discounted Usability Test of a Survey Data Extraction Tool

John J. Bosley and Cavan C. Capps


For over a year, BLS and the Census Bureau have collaborated on the redesign of the user interface to an application that is designed to support finding, defining and extracting (downloading) customized data sets from statistical (survey) databases. This application, or tool, has been named "FERRETT," which stands for "Federal Electronic Research [and] Review Extraction Tabulation Tool." The initial version of FERRETT has been in use for over two years, primarily to allow users to work with data sets from the Current Population Survey (CPS) through the Census Bureau website. . This version uses a series of CGI screens to support user specification of particular survey variables, and even select specific values for those variables, which can then be extracted from an on-line database. Extracted data can be downloaded as ASCII files, or in SAS file format, for local processing. The tool also supports limited on-line processing, e.g. simple descriptive statistics, without the need to download. Data descriptions ("metadata") are available on demand to help users make sure they are getting the data they want.