|Route map: HomePublicationsEvaluation CookbookInformation Page|
|Practical Hints when Interviewing: Remembering what Happened|
When you are carrying out interviews, focus groups and discussions it is important to keep a record of what was said for future transcription, reference or analysis. The method you use will depend on how much detail you require.
Keeping written notes:
Taping your session:
Sometimes students can feel awkward about the idea of being taped so you might start by having some general conversation at the beginning of your session in order to get them accustomed to talking with a tape recorder running.
Hiding a tape-recorder and recording secretly might seem to be a good tactic to help keep your participants relaxed, but apart from the obvious ethical problems this raises, it also means that legitimately, you can't make use of any of information you collect.
Setting up the taping equipment:
Having a good microphone is probably more important than having a good tape recorder. Constant hissing on a tape or just having indistinct mumbling can cause all sorts of problems when transcribing. Placing a microphone on a soft surface such as foam or a piece of carpet can help to improve sound quality and a flat microphone can also appear less intrusive.
Most microphones built into recorders have a restricted range and if you are working with a group of people, you could find that you miss one or two people's contributions because they are just out of range. If you are working with a group, try to make sure that they are an equal distance from the microphone and if you can't get hold of an omni-directional microphone try and use a second one.
Working with recordings:
If you don't want to go through the process above, you might like to use software (e.g. CODE-A-TEXT) which is now available and which works from digitised sound files. The coding, memoing and analysis can be done in the software while listening to the sound file. This software can also work for transcribed data primarily as a content analysis program.
Identifying who said what:
Focus groups can sometimes comprise students/ staff from different disciplines which can make it more important to identify who says what. You might consider using speakers identifiers which look something like this : BSC-1-8, MA-3-6, HND-1-2 etc. representing a first year student from focus group 8, a third year student from group 6 and first year HND student from group 2. This also means that you can carry out automated text searches on the basis of the speaker's identifier if you are using data analysis software at a later stage.
© All rights reserved LTDI and content authors.
Last modified: 25 March 1999.