Research methods are broadly divided into quantitative and qualitative. While quantitative methods collect objective measurements, qualitative research techniques provide a comprehensive understanding of participants’ experiences, motivations, and everyday life. Data is collected using different methods in qualitative research such as direct observation, open-ended surveys, focus groups, and oral history and transcribed using professional transcription services.
There are many advantages to collecting data using the qualitative research technique:
- Provides for detailed evaluation by recording attitudes, feelings and behaviors
- Can be adapted to the situation based on incoming or available data
- Is flexible as the framework is not fixed – the researcher can follow-up with further questions
- Encourages participants to expand on their views which can open up new areas for discussion
- Builds a detailed picture of individual experiences and the reasons for specific actions
- Uses smaller sample sizes which saves time and money
Qualitative methods also allow the researcher to distinguish abstract factors, such as social norms, socioeconomic status, gender roles, ethnicity, and religion, though they may not be directly related to the research question. In combination with quantitative methods, qualitative research can provide a better understanding of complex situations.
A report title “Notable Dissertations 2018” published by American Libraries showcases recent studies that have made effective use of qualitative techniques. One qualitative research study “The Impact of School Library Design on the Development of Multiple Literacy Skills in Early Childhood Students” from the University of Pennsylvania examined the role of the library in four separate schools in order to understand how young students use libraries to develop digital literacy and how libraries should change and grow in response to the digital age.
Qualitative techniques are widely used in the field of medicine. A recent study titled “Care Transitions from Patient and Caregiver Perspectives” published in the Annals of Family Medicine used focus groups and in-depth interviews to understand patient and caregiver experiences during care transitions, and characterize patient and caregiver desired outcomes of care transitions and the health services associated with them. Audio transcription of the recordings allowed the researchers to identify themes and the relationships between them.
If you are planning to use qualitative techniques in your research, preparation is important to generate the type of information that you need. Here are the areas which will need your attention and tips from the Open University, UK and other experts:
- Create a plan: Before you recruit the participants and conduct interviews, you should prepare and create a plan. Matters that need attention are: the type of research questions that will improve understanding of the topic, what type of information might be generated, if interviews are the most effective means of examining the research questions, and what other methods could be used.
- Determine the type of interview: If you are going to conduct interviews, determine who you will interview and the type of information you want to obtain. You also need to identify the type of interview – unstructured, semi-structured or structured.
- Recruit participants: Qualitative research generally involves smaller sample sizes than quantitative methods. Determine the number of people you need to interview to make the research meaningful. If you are researching a specific subject, it would be better to interview experts or people with direct experience rather than a random sample.
- Choose an appropriate setting: In qualitative research, the investigator studies the participants in their natural setting. It’s important to choose a setting with the least distraction for clarity in the audio recording of the interview. Academic transcription companies can provide transcripts of audio and video recordings with accuracy levels as high as 99 percent with good audio.
- Prepare guidelines: Points in mind while preparing interview guidelines:
- Introduce yourself and explain the purpose of the interview
- Develop relevant questions and arrange them in a logical sequence
- Make sure the questions are easy to understand
- Ask different types of questions – such as introductory, follow-up, specifying, probing, clarifying, indirect and direct questions. Avoid leading questions. Try to leave the direct questions (with a yes or no answer) for the end.
- Use active listening techniques: Don’t begin interviews with any biases. Give the participants your full attention. Make eye contact, be empathetic, and show that you are listening. Give them time to think and avoid interrupting them when they are answering. Pay attention to body language and listen between the lines. Leave time for an open-ended discussion.
- Record the interview: Recording interviews is key element in collecting qualitative data for research. Use a quality digital recorder. There are many best practices to ensure quality recordings, which is important for transcription purposes. Before recording, make sure that the interviewees agree to be recorded. If they decline, you can take notes.
- Transcription: Interviews for qualitative research can take a long time to transcribe, especially if there are multiple speakers and the recording is not clear. Video recordings are more informative but can take even longer to transcribe than audio-recordings if action and activity descriptions are included in the transcripts. If you have stringent deadlines for your project, the best option would be to take advantage of the cheap transcription services available for the academic community.
The final step, of course, is analyzing the interview. It involves identifying, examining, and interpreting the patterns and themes in the transcripts and determining how they help answering the basic research questions. Such data analysis is an ongoing process that takes place even as the data is being collected. Professional interview transcription services can go a long way in supporting efficient data analysis by ensuring accurate transcription of the audio and video recordings of interviews.