qualitative research - thoughts, anyone?


hi everyone I have gone into qualitative research now, and I'm finding that I really don't like doing transcriptions! what a mess!

but yes I still do it anyhow, I steel myself and just force myself to do them!
I keep telling myself --discipline!

Does anyone have any advice for me? I am aware this may be an old topic, but I'd really appreciate any opinions, ideas, thoughts, someone please inspire me!!!

love satchi


If you have the funding and ethics clearance, you could get them transcribed professionally.

It is of course, better to do your own transcription, you'll get more from your data that way. However, professional transcription is an option, and one I would recommend if you are really struggling. Then you can just load your documents into a software program like Atlas Ti or Nivo and code to your hearts content.

I went with professional transcription, and it was probably the best decision I made. Granted, it was made in part due to painful hand swelling and nerve injury and in part due to taking on too much teaching. I know many students of course do their own transcription and all the power to them! Personally? I'd rather spend that time coding my data or writing articles, working through theory etc. I think a number of professional academics probably don't do their own transcription, they'll send it out to be done professionally, or use the slave labour of RAs/Grad Students.

Professional transcribers are good in that they are trained in transcribing, they can do it at a very fast pace and good transcribers will highlight certain areas in the recording (in the transcript) as to what they didn't understand, allowing you to go back to that exact point and listen to fill in the gap.


I previously did some paid transcription for someone, and found it a bit of a slog - it is time consuming, and I tried to do it in big bursts when I had the concentration.

Now I'm cheerfully doing interview after interview for my own qualitative research, aware that I'm storing up a lot of transcription for myself! I'm trying to tell myself it is better for me to do it, though, because the methodology relies on me getting really close to the data and I guess transcribing it will serve a dual purpose and I'll be starting to spot themes as I do that. It does take forever though. Good luck!


hi awsoci and chickpea thank you so much for talking to me!! I feel like going crazy doing transcriptions. Unfortunately there is no funding to pay for professional transcription so I have to do it myself! I feel so miserable when I start to do it, especially when I have to stop, rewind back to where it was that I heard gibberish!

I have a colleague who does not do transcriptions, he says he has no time, I don't know how he works without transcriptions?! I guess there is no correct or incorrect way about doing qualitative research then? I was thinking abut my colleague, but I can't do it his way because I can't remember what people have said to me. In the end, I think I still have to transcribe which is a real pain.

Also, how do you cope with doing transcriptions -- I share my work space with people, and sometimes they are making phone calls, talking, laughing, or discussing research etc. It's such a pain I wish they would all just stop talking, stop making all that noise.

So in the end I go away somewhere with my headphones with my little notepad and scribble whatever I can decipher.

where is the best working space for transcriptions???
love satchi


I definitely couldn't do transcriptions in a place where other people were talking and making calls! I work from home most of the time. Is it possible to get some work from home days, or does your library have silent study rooms you could use? Or are there other rooms in the uni you could book to get away from the noise?

I don't know how your colleague could do qualitative analysis without transcribing. I guess it depends on what he hopes to get from the research - if it's purely that he's listening for certain content then it might be possible, but anything that requires a degree of interpretation would be difficult to do without a transcript. At least, I wouldn't trust myself not to listen selectively for things I thought were important!


hi chickpea
yes we have silent study rooms we can use, only thing is I need to see if they are available. I think I will work from home when I need to do transcriptions, that will probably work out better for me.

Another thing, when we transcribe, do we actually have to write every single word out, like can I omit my own questions, and just shorten them instead of the whole question? When my subject keeps saying ..."and so" "errr...." I very often don't put that in, also I find after a few minutes my elbow starts to hurt.

It seems silly but I do feel a bit stressed when I start transcribing, and then after a few minutes when I've actually got something down on paper I start to feel better.

love satchi


Hi Satchi,

I think whether you transcribe your own questions in full and all the ers umms and pauses depends on what kind of analysis you're doing. I'm doing discourse analysis so unfortunately everything needs to be in the transcript but if you're doing thematic analysis with coding then you probably don't need quite such a detailed transcript.

For my masters degree I recorded several pairs students working together on a task. Then when I realised how long the transcription was going to take me, I just identified sections which were relevant to my research questions and transcribed those. Nobody criticised me for it so I guess it's okay sometimes.

You have transcription software, don't you? It makes the job a bit easier.


As AislingB says, there is a lot of variety in the detail you need to record - some types of discourse analysis require everything down to noting micro-pauses of fractions of a second, while other methodologies are concerned more with the content. The stuff I'm doing at the moment is more about looking at how people make sense of their experiences, so I need to capture their words but not all the little pauses and 'umms' etc. The approach I'm planning to take is to skip anything that's wildly off-topic and abbreviate my own rambly questions, but to pay close attention to my participants' answers. It all depends on the methodology you're using.


Alto Edge has some good transcription software packages you can use. http://www.altoedge.com/

When I was transcribing I found them helpful. Get the bundle if you can, it includes a headset and a foot pedal, foot pedals leave your hands free for stopping/starting.

How much you transcribe is up to you. If you reach data saturation, you don't necessarily have to transcribe word for word at that point.


Invest in a set of noise cancelling headphones and a foot pedal, they'll both make life easier. And investigate what's appropriate for and required by your project - many social scientists transcribe word for word, while others transcribe only the "highlights". The former has the advantage that the transcripts may be reusable (they can be potentially be re-analysed from a different angle at a later date), the latter saves your fingers! My supervisor always transcribes her interviews the evening after they take place - that way they never build up into an unmanageable pile.


hi everyone thank you so much for your replies!

No I haven't got transcription software. I didn't even know which one to get, at least now I have some direction where to look.

Kelpie it is a good idea to do the transcription on the same day. I think I will push myself to do this. It's just that I don't like doing them so I think I have been putting them off. I must discipline myself even more.

I am only familiar with thematic analysis.

Is there any quick reference or website I can learn about different types of qualitative analysis? One for dummies? Can somebody recommend something to me. So I have a better idea. I didn't even know that there was something called discourse analysis.

Thanks very much
love satchi


Not sure about that but here's the transcription software I use. In combination with a foot pedal it really will help.


I use the same software as kelpie. I don't have a foot pedal but I find it okay using the f keys to pause and rewind - much better than having to keep reaching for the mouse.

Satchi, I don't know of any websites on qualitative methods and analysis.


I used to transcribe in a past job in a solicitors doing Police and solicitor interviews. Foot pedal is a must! decision on you transcribe or a professional depends what you want from the data. If you want to find themes across lots of interviews etc get professional and use something like Nvivo. You also might not need to transcribe everything if you have a structure for certain things you are looking at e.g. people doing identity wirk might look just for 'I' statements etc.
Of course the beauty of transcribing it yourself is, although painstaking it really does help with analysis and although ti seems like a big job at the time it will make analysis easier in the long run because you will know your data better so it's swings and roundabout really.


Sorry, stupid phone cut off the end of my last post. I meant to say I don't know any websites but there are lots of introductory books on qualitative data collection and analysis.