Formatting transcripts for qualitative research

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 reviews more specifically the various levels of transcribing verbatim and formatting for qualitative research transcripts.

In this 18 minute video, Graham R Gibbs discusses some of the ways you might format documents you are transcribing and what kind of detail of the speech you might want to include. He also examines issues of anonymity in qualitative data analysis and of archiving data.

I recommend watching the full video, but I've included the key points from his PowerPoint slides below as a quick reference.

Format of transcript

·      Names. Use capitals for speakers

o   MARY C

o   MARY

o   I:

o   Or “IV:”

o   Or INT



·      Names and contextual names (places etc.)

·      Keep original with real names, but keep secure

·      Publish only anonymised versions


Prepare text

·      Check for accuracy

·      Use […] for missing text

·      Use [bribery?] for words you are not sure about.

·      Print with wide margins (for next stage – coding)



·      Structured interviews

o   E.g. with same questions

o   Use Q1, Q2, etc. consistently throughout

o   Put in Heading style for NVivo

·      Section format

o   Facilitates searching later

o   Use of heading style (Heading 1 etc.) in NVivo

o   Allows use of automatic coding

·      Paragraphs

o   Use if coding off-line

o   ‘On the beach’ coding


Levels of transcription

·      People don’t talk in sentences

o   Repeat themselves

o   Hesitate, stutter

o   Use contractions (don’t, coz, etc.)

o   Use filler words (like, y’know, er, I mean)

·      Options

o   Just the gist

o   Verbatim

o   Verbatim with dialect

o   Discourse level


Just the gist

“90% of my communication is with… the Sales Director. 1% of his communication is with me. I try to be one step ahead, I get things ready, … because he jumps from one … project to another. … This morning we did Essex, this afternoon we did BT, and we haven’t even finished Essex yet.” (… indicates omitted speech)



“I don’t really know. I’ve a feeling that they’re allowed to let their emotions show better. I think bereavement is part of their religion and culture. They tend to be more religious anyway. I’m not from a religious family, so I don’t know that side of it.”


Verbatim with dialect

“’s just that – one o’ staff – they wind everybody up, I mean, - cos I asked for some money – out o’ the safe, cos they only keep money in the safe – ‘s our money – so I asked for some money and they wouldn’t give it me – an’ I snatched this tenner what was mine.”


Conversation analysis

Bashir:                        Did you ever (.) personally assist him with writing of his book. (0.8)

Princess:         A lot of people.hhh ((clears throat)) saw the distress that my life was in. (.) And they felt it was a supportive thing to help (0.2) in the way that they did.


Document headers

= Session summary sheets or cover sheet

Pseudonym of person interviewed and other anonymising reference

·      Date of interview

·      Topic and circumstances of interview

·      Name of interviewer

·      Source of field notes relevant to interview

·      Linked documents (e.g. previous and subsequent interviews)

·      Source of document (full reference)

·      Initial ideas for analysis

In NVivo can be kept in document properties



·      Needs written consent from participants (difficult if not done at the time of research)

·      May need copyright permission if used in publications

·      Ensure confidentiality by anonymising names of people and places (safe for participants if activities illegal or illicit), safe for researcher (e.g. covert operations, paramilitary groups)

·      Alternative is closure of material for a period or restricted access. Need to specify.

·      Also, field notes, documentation, etc. needed to give secondary researchers background information

·      ESRC Qualitative Data Archival Resource Centre (Qualidata)

Review: Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000

Review: Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000

Get your punctuation right!

Get your punctuation right!