Verbatim Transcription for Field Research Interviews

by | Published on Nov 11, 2014 | Verbatim Transcription

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If you plan to take notes and write down observations during a field research interview conducted for your thesis or dissertation, it won’t work as expected. You will get only a short time if you are interviewing high-profile people / business leaders and even if you get more time with ordinary people, you may miss out many details while concentrating on your notes. Recording the interview using a recording equipment and transcribing it verbatim (word-for-word reproduction of verbal data) is a better idea. Verbatim transcription of research data will not only capture the meaning and perception of the recorded interviews, but also their context.

While transcribing research interviews verbatim, it is very important that there is an exact match between what is recorded and what is transcribed into text. Transcriptionists should pay attention to the following things and transcribe them properly.

  • Response Tokens – This includes “hm”, “ok”, “ah”, “yeah”, “um”, “uh” and “mmh”. They are intentional and researchers use them as verbal probes to extract more information from the interviewee. Research has shown that these kinds of vocalizations can provide insight into the nature of conversation as well as the information content of the conversation.
  • Involuntary Vocalizations – Involuntary noises include sounds such as coughing, burping, sniffing, sneezing, laughing and crying. Background noises are also included in this category. These sounds occurring during the interview can be meaningful or meaningless to the analyst and transcriptionists should listen to the interview carefully to recognize that.
  • Non-verbal Vocalizations – These include actions, activities, and interactions of the interviewee and interviewer. Gesticulations such as pointing, head nodding, thought checking, hand gestures and fidgeting are also included as non-verbal interactions. These types of interactions are mostly relevant while transcribing from a video. Non-verbal interactions can add context and explanation or cause misunderstandings to the researchers with other forms of noise. So, the transcriptionists should be very careful while transcribing these.

Transcriptionists should also pay attention to the pronunciation and irregular grammar during the interview as they provide important insights into the interviewee’s life and meaning-making that adds richness that would otherwise be lost. Getting support from professional and experienced transcriptionists is always good for researchers to make their verbatim transcripts accurate and save valuable time.

Importance of Audio Quality

Audio quality is very essential for accurate verbatim transcription as it may be very difficult for transcriptionists to capture everything said in an interview and interpret it correctly with a noisy recording and here are the major factors that affect the quality.

  • Location – Background noise will affect your audio recording and thereby the accuracy of your transcript. If you are going to board rooms or offices for taking interviews, then your recording won’t be affected too much with background voices and other interruptions. Public places and outdoors, where you have little or no control of noise and interruptions can create problems. Avoid such kind of venues during field research interviews and choose a place where you can control the background noise or interruptions.
  • Recording Equipment – Using quality recording equipment is very essential to ensure good recording. Digital recorders are always better than magnetic tape recorders. However, recording research interviews using iPhone or iPad is a bad idea as they typically provide very low quality output and are designed to capture audio in close proximity. Moreover, a call or SMS will cause interruptions during recording. A laptop with an external microphone is a good option. However, you should make sure that the laptop is placed at least 6 feet away from the microphone. An uncompressed audio format (PCM or AIFF) is best for recording the interview as compressed audio files tend to reduce the quality of the audio.

The above mentioned factors must be taken into consideration before starting the interview and the quality of audio checked before sending the files to the transcriptionist.

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