Transcribing your vocal tics, you know?

We’ve all been in a conversation with someone who says, “Do you know what I mean?” at the end of every other sentence. I was once in a conversation with someone who said the phrase as one word because he’d used it so much over the years – “Jwormeen” – sometimes mid-sentence. We all have vocal tics, and if you’re not in the habit of recording your conversations for future use then you’ll hopefully be blissfully unaware of yours.

Open access to published research is becoming more and more common, but what about the data behind the research? Why is it so important to be able to access researchers’ data and duplicate results, and what can be done to make this easier and more common practice?

I've transcribed a podcast from the National Centre for Research Methods called "Reproducing social science research: give up your code" where Professor Vernon Gayle of the University of Edinburgh is interviewed on this topic. It's a bit of a departure for us as it's more relevant for quant rather than qualitative research, but I thought it was interesting, so I decided to transcribe it and share!

Review: Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000

One of the downsides to transcribing is that the constant typing can really damage your wrists if you don’t have your workstation set up properly. A few years ago, I started experiencing debilitating RSI. I had been typing almost entirely on my laptop for years, and realised that this (in addition to poor posture) was the source of my problems. I finally decided to take action and buy an ergonomic keyboard.

Formatting transcripts for qualitative research

I'm a big fan of Graham Gibbs' YouTube videos, which cover a wide range of issues related to qualitative research and research methods. Previously, I've discussed his overview video on "Doing transcription for qualitative research". Today I'm looking at "Types of transcription for qualitative research", which looks more specifically at levels of verbatim and formatting for qualitative research transcripts.

Get your punctuation right!

If there's one thing I've become slightly obsessive about since starting to transcribe, it's correct punctuation. Nothing annoys me more than a misplaced apostrophe, missing comma, or misused quotation marks. This blog post - 10 common punctuation mistakes and how to avoid them - hits the nail on the head. 

So you’ve just come back from a fieldwork trip, or you’ve got a long backlog of interviews that you’ve conducted for a qualitative research project. All of a sudden you realise you’ve got dozens of audio files, some field notes, some scraps of paper, and don’t even know where to begin on getting things organised to begin your qualitative analysis.

Through my own experience as a researcher, I have found myself in a situation where the sheer volume of data gathered can be a bit daunting, but being systematic from the beginning can help you feel a bit more in control. Here are five tips on getting started so that you can make the best of your data analysis.

Graham Gibbs at the University of Huddersfield has a number of very useful YouTube videos on research methods, particularly focusing on qualitative research. In this video, he discusses transcription for qualitative research and some of the issues involved in this. 

"Given the nature of transcription, why do it? The reason we do it is because usually we find it much easier to work with a transcript rather than a recording. […] For analysis purposes, people still find it easier to work with a transcript, despite the effort that goes into creating transcripts. The reason has to do with the fact that you can move around transcripts – you can mark it with a pencil; you can shuffle the pages very quickly and find the bits you want. You’ve got very quick, random access to what you want. You can remember bits because you’ve marked them very easily. […] I’m afraid that transcription is still the norm for anything that involves interviews or recordings."

"What are key understandings and issues evident in the transcription literature between 1979 and 2009? and What are the implications of these for qualitative research?" This very interesting journal article seeks to answer these research questions, and illuminates some of the important aspects of transcription for qualitative researchers.

Transcription is a practice central to qualitative research, yet the literature that addresses transcription presents it as taken for granted in qualitative studies. In this article the author provides a review of three decades of literature on transcription between 1979 and 2009. The review establishes core understandings and issues that have informed the transcription literature, including the ways it is said that transcription is overlooked in qualitative research. Discussion of the literature raises the need for more empirical studies that examine transcription in qualitative research, and suggests specific questions that qualitative researchers might address in relation to transcription and its reporting.

Davidson, Christina Rush. "Transcription: Imperatives for qualitative research." International Journal of Qualitative Methods 8.2 (2009): 35:52.

How many qualitative interviews is enough?

This is a question that I think all qualitative researchers struggle with - how many interviews do you need to produce adequate, meaningful evidence? As a transcription company, we've dealt with projects with five interviews, and others with hundreds. There are certainly a lot of questions to consider, and Sarah Baker and Rosalind Edwards' very useful working paper aims to address these. Rosalind was interviewed for an NCRM podcast about this paper, which we've transcribed below for you.

Analysing your interviews

This video provides a really useful overview of how to conduct qualitative analysis, by manually coding transcripts. Personally, I prefer to code transcripts in NVivo, but these instructions are a great starting point to getting to grips with doing this manually. I've transcribed the video and included the text below, so you have the option of either watching or reading. 

I would always recommend conducting interviews in person, in a quiet room, with a good quality audio recorder placed on a table between the interviewer and respondent… but we all know that in the real world this isn’t always possible. Sometimes you have to do interviews in noisy cafes or echoey boardrooms. And sometimes you can’t actually get in the same room, and you have to conduct your interview over the phone.

Review: Olympus WS-450S digital voice recorder

As a transcriber, I have but one requirement when it comes to voice recorders: Please, oh please, produce perfect quality audio recordings so that I can understand exactly what every speaker is saying.

As a researcher, I have quite a few more requirements on my tick list. I've been using the Olympus WS-450S recorder for several years now, and it's worked brilliantly for my needs. 

I started transcribing over seven years ago because my exceptionally fast typing (over 80 words per minute) makes me pretty well able to keep up with normal talking speed of recordings. I receive enquiries every day from people hoping to become transcribers, but many of these seem to be from people with a fairly poor grasp of English. I’ve realised over the years that there’s more to being a good transcriber than just lightning fast fingers and I thought I would share some key skills that I look for in my employees.

When I tell someone about audio transcription, invariably the first question I get asked is, "Why can't you just have voice recognition software do it?" Well, unfortunately your computer just isn't that smart (yet). Here are a few reasons why having audio transcription done by humans is so important for accuracy and quality.