Sunday, 6 December 2009

Transcribing interviews

I've transcribed a dozen interviews myself and used to transcribe a dozen others. I have learned to:
  • secure a good quality of sound recording but that what is good quality to me may not be good quality to another transcriber.
  • clarify inaudible answers during the interview. But one interview in a crowded restaurant was totally incomprehensible. I couldn't transcribe any, just make notes immediately after.
  • listen immediately after to check sound quality and remind myself, in case the recording gets lost
  • pose clear questions that interview subjects understand (hence the importance of the interview schedule sheet)
  • listen to what is said and how, but also during the interview to watch hands and eyes because the movements add information that the recordings don't make. Hands are interesting. e.g. pointing upwards at the vision, or two turning together from left, then from right then to the middle to "form the middle ground", or a wave that means "switch off that recorder". Some movement then give information, I've "heard" it, but there're no words.
  • pay attention to the voice, pauses, sighs - see Kvale, 2007 p137, who suggests the voice indicates whether the topic is important or may be too sensitive to pursue
  • follow an interview with second questions - difficult when my reactions are not yet sufficiently gather to create coherent second questions
  • avoid the interview becoming filled with small talk to notice the interviewer's variations of question and styles
  • become aware of the differences between oral and written language. This really shows up when you try to add punctuation. Where do I put a full stop? Is that where the speaker would have put it? Sometimes when I've used a transcriber, the full stop has change the speaker's meaning
  • notice how new interpretations of meanings may arise when working with the recordings - I'm not sure that happens much but I do notice things that I didn't have time for or wouldn't have followed up with the interviewee.
See Kvale 2007, Box 12.1 which is very useful. He suggests learning to interview by witnessing others interviewing, which I've not had the chance to do, expect in the Doctoral training Workshops - I hate those artificial situations.

Perhaps as students we could get together to talk about our interview stories. I'll ask our MRes group next time we reunite.

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