Qualitative interviews can be tricky to record as well as transcribe, especially if the interviews are conducted in an outdoor or noisy location.
A little bit of planning and some simple precautions can go a long way in improving the clarity of the recordings as well as the accuracy of your transcripts:
1. Use Professional Recording Gear
The two most common problems with qualitative interview recordings are –
i) Low volume due to the speakers’ distance from the recording device, and
ii) Background/surrounding noise coming out too loud on the recording.
Both lead to an enormous amount of data loss.
Test your equipment a couple of times before the interview and make sure you carry lots of spare batteries. If it’s going to be a telephonic interview then make a test call and check the recording quality – you can do this with the interviewee or a friend.
2. Take the Help of an Interpreter
If the interviewee has a particularly heavy accent or is mumbling their responses then even the most skillful transcriptionist won’t be able to understand what they’re saying.
There are three solutions to this problem –
i) Take along an Interpreter
This person can be a professional Interpreter or someone from the interviewee’s community who will repeat their responses into a recording device.
ii) Repeat the responses yourself
If you can clearly understand the interviewee’s responses, you can repeat their responses yourself into the recorder – without the help of an interpreter.
iii) Take copious notes
If repeating responses disrupts the flow of the conversation, you can take notes on your laptop or notebook and share these with your transcriptionist later.
The idea is to ensure that you don’t lose any part of your interviewees’ responses because of issues related to accent, rate of speech, volume, clarity etc.
3. Choose a Quiet Location
Background noise – such as cars passing by, children laughing, sounds at a dinner table, people talking at neighboring tables – all these tend to drown voices of the speakers on a recording. Wherever possible, try to choose a closed room for your qualitative interviews.
4. Provide Guidelines to the Interviewee
Rate of speech is a big factor in clarity of speech. Before beginning a qualitative interview, tell the interviewee that you would be recording the call/conversation and request them to speak slowly and loudly, directly into the voice recorder or microphone.
5. Ask Speakers to Identify Themselves
If there are multiple interviewees on a single qualitative interview, it can become hard to identify the different speakers when replaying the audio or while transcribing.
To avoid this, ask each speaker to mention their name before answering, for example “This is Tom, my view on this subject is a little different…”
These steps will improve the quality of your recordings and ultimately help you glean more information from your qualitative research interviews.