All in academic transcription

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.

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.