Interview transcripts

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Interview transcripts

Post by Niels on Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:18 pm

So today I suddenly found myself participating in 2 strikes organized by BAYAN. The first was a march to the Presidential Palace to demand evacuation of Filipino workers from Libia; the second was some sort of sit-in (very sixties) on a busy traffic junction, to protest the rising oil prices.

Joining the strikes came as a supprise to me, so I came unprepared. Eventhough I interviewed a lot of people from different organizations, I didn't brought my little tape recorder with me. I tried writing things down, but this proved to be very difficult. Still, I think I can remember most of the things they told me.

My question: how to use this information? Because I didn't record it, I can't make transcripts of the things that were said to me. Are transcripts obligatory and do we have to incorporate them in the final thesis, e.g. as appendix or something? Or can I just use this information and mention in a footnote something like: "according to demonstrater # 1, during Oil rally, etc. etc."?

(By the way, I didn't actually participate as in holding signs and stuff. I just walked up with the activists, asking them questions and taking pictures on the way. Last year some Belgians were stupid enough to join a protest rally, afterwhich they were kindly asked to leave the country... don't want that to happen to me, so I behave like an innocent bystander/ researcher.)

Anyhoo, my question: Transcripts: obligatory? And what to do with information you receive but which you can't back up with transcipts, etc.?
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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Claudia on Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:52 pm

same question here. And if we have to do transcripts, how do I transcribe an interview that I do with a translator? I mean, I can not write down the Russian part, so the words are only the words from the research assistant and not from the person interviewed. Thanx for help!

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Alicia on Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:29 am

From what I understood, we don't have to add the transcipts to our thesis itself as an appendix or anything. I think Mario once mentioned that during class and he joked about that this meant we could actually make stuff up, but that that would obviously be a very bad idea.

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Cameroonian on Sun Mar 06, 2011 5:05 pm

I don't have a tape recorder with me. I just write everything down immediatly after I talked to someone. most of the time I "interview" people that I just happen to meet, taxi driver, market woman etc. I write down which date and usually the occupation of the person or something else so I know who said what. haven't used names.
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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Niels on Sun Mar 06, 2011 5:24 pm

Tried writing down an interview today: almost broke my wrist. I will rely on my tape recorder from now on Razz
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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Alicia on Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:13 pm

I take my tape recorder with me everywhere, so I always have it at hand. My own experience is that if I hear something for the second time, I tend to notice different things than the first time. Also, sometimes something feels very important while I'm doing the interview, but then when I hear it again, after I've had some time to process the interview itself, it turns out that it wasn't that important at all, or that it wasn't really talked about as much as I though it was.
I never realised this until I actually started recording things (in my case these were the meetings with my supervisor). Also, I think it takes some of the pressure of during the interview, because otherwise I'm just nervous that I forget to write something down, that it actually becomes harder to focus on the interview itself.

I hate transcribing the interviews though. That takes an awful lot of time!

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Claudia on Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:02 pm

you're awesome! you recorded the meetings with Mario? I should have done the same...

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Broccoli on Mon Mar 07, 2011 4:44 pm

Niels wrote:My question: how to use this information? Because I didn't record it, I can't make transcripts of the things that were said to me. Are transcripts obligatory and do we have to incorporate them in the final thesis, e.g. as appendix or something? Or can I just use this information and mention in a footnote something like: "according to demonstrater # 1, during Oil rally, etc. etc."? Anyhoo, my question: Transcripts: obligatory? And what to do with information you receive but which you can't back up with transcipts, etc.?

Funny, academics live so much in the virtual world of words and ideas that many students don't know what to do with actual social life when we see it for ourselves.

First, in these settings of "social life" you'll need to make systematic observations. What do you observe? Well, it depends on the research questions you are interested in. In you case, Niels, you're interested in why people get involved in political contention/social movements. So, drawing from an analytic frame of "contentious politics," you should observe the following:

* what is the demographic background of the people who are participating in this rally? (age, sex, average age, socio-economic class, etc.);
* what claims are they making, and in what forms do they express their claim making? In the numerous rallies that you (will have) participated in, what were the most common expressions of their claim making? (this would indicate their repertoire of contention);
* how was the rally planned and organised? Where there visible leaders?
* were there security forces present? If so, how did they react towards the demonstrators? And how did protesters react to the actions of the security forces?

So, these are all questions that you can observe the detailed answers to.

Second, you will need to translate your visual observations into field notes, at your earliest possible convenience. These notes should describe in detail all your observations. In other words, by writing them down as notes you are turning observations into textual "transcripts," as you refer to them. (In your MA thesis you do NOT need to include and present all of your transcripts, however.)

So, by the end of your research you will also have your own descriptions (taken down as field notes) to use as "evidence/data." When writing your thesis, you can use this evidence to illustrate a point of argument; or you can also use your detailed descriptions as sources from which to infer more abstract findings. Like all forms of evidence, though, try to triangulate any observed data with other sources, in order to establish the credibility and accuracy of your interpretation of your observations.

Remember, evidence doesn't just come in the form of what people tell you during interviews. Evidence also comes from the notes that you make on your observations of social life.

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Broccoli on Mon Mar 07, 2011 4:59 pm

Claudia wrote:If we have to do transcripts, how do I transcribe an interview that I do with a translator? I mean, I can not write down the Russian part, so the words are only the words from the research assistant and not from the person interviewed. Thanx for help!

Yes, as Alicia said, you do not need to submit your interview transcripts inside your MA thesis. That would make for overly-thick theses.

If you can, try to have somebody listen to your recorded interviews, and more particularly, the translations that your translator is making of your respondent's information. This permits you to determine how good your translator is, in terms of his/her accuracy and credibility of translation. Always try to triangulate the accuracy and credibility of your data with other sources, and not take just each bit at face value. If your translator's work is good, then you can quote his/her translation in your thesis (you can put the original Cyrillic in a foot- or endnote, so the reader can also see your respondent's original words--this is what I did with my Spanish-speaking respondents in Peru).

The value of using a voice recorder is that you can quote your respondents EXACTLY, especially long quotes. This lessens the risk of the researcher's subjective selectivity creeping into in what gets memorised, summarised, interpreted, and conveyed as "data."

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Davey on Mon Mar 07, 2011 5:11 pm

Hey I got a question! They say when I interview North Korean defectors, most of them ask not to be recorded. Its a bit strange, but even North Korean refugees in asylum are under the threat of forced abduction, forced repatriation, or they see a time where they can come back to NK and return to their families and do not want recordings of themselves as evidence of treason and what not.

Anyhoo, a common technique done by my organization at least is writing down what they say in real time and have them look at what you just wrote to make sure youve quoted them correctly. They also do this as a "skip to the good stuff" type thing, so that dont ahve to transcribe entire interviews, and just write down the comments and stuff that matter to them the most.

Would this approach hinder the strength of my research? Can you think of alternatives to recording?
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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Broccoli on Mon Mar 07, 2011 5:21 pm

This is good too, though more time consuming.

It has the advantage of asking the source to verify the accuracy of what the researcher has written down. A clever researcher could also use the immediate opportunity to ask "... and what did you mean when you said that?"

The problem with "skipping to the good stuff" is that we don't always know what the "good stuff" is at the moment of the interview. It is perhaps only later that we recognise, through reflection, what would seem to be more important or less important for our research. What sometimes seems really important for us at the moment becomes less important upon hearing it again; and vice versa. (See, for example, what Alicia said in a prior post on recording interviews.)

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Cameroonian on Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:19 pm

but what if your research requirs you to make a lot ( a lot! ) of interviews which makes it more quantitative then qualitative? I don't have a tape recorder because with the electricity reliability ( sometimes too much power) humidity and dust it would not survive. I am planning on doing short structured interviews with the help of one of the NGO employees because most people here speak Pidgin. any tips or trics?
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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Ieke on Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:19 am

Based on my own experience - and if I have have access and permission to the specific group I want to talk to in jordan - I would not be able to record the interviews: because of the security of the interviewees themselves. If they are already willing to tell their story (about being trafficked), then I should make sure that this will not put them in an insecure situation. In my residency here I won't be able to have a safe place for data storage (as theft is not uncommon, especially in this area). This would put them in a dangerous situation.

Moreover, I need to work with translators as well (as I intend to do interviews with Philippinos and/or Indonesians). I make sure that my interview guide does not have complex sentences so that translation would be easy for an interpreter. Besides that, I will make use of an interpreter who is known to the local context of trafficking (both in jordan as in the country of origin). I will discuss all interview guides before the actual interview and I even hope to organize a training session at my internship place to test the interview guides. Most probably the interview will be more structured en questions are more written down, just because I want to avoid miscommunication between me, the interpreter and the interviewee.

Just wondering whether I should take the notes (as I am the one who is interviewing as well) or the interpreter (who is known in the field of combatting human trafficking and has knowledge of the specific topics) or both??

What do you think?

Still, as the government here is currently the main actor in the field of combatting human trafficking, i need to wait for permissions to interview (so that I won't disrupt their activities and so that i can stay in the country) In the meanwhile: I have a lot of preparation time and interesting activities in my internship.

Thanks and good luck all!


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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Broccoli on Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:17 am

If you are, for a number of practical and/or ethical reasons, unable to record the interviews with or testimonies of your respondents, then you have no choice but to record the information another way, such as detailed note taking.

There is never "black-or-white" when it comes to research. You must respond to the specific situation imaginatively, and always be alert for opportunities. If one situation does not permit you to use a voice recorder, that is not a reason to put it away for the entire period of your research.

The advantages of using it (as well as the disadvantages) have been discussed in the literature and in class. It is now up to you to use a recorder when it is possible, and use alternative data collection techniques when it is not. But never make a decision just because "it's convenient and easier that way."

If you are using a translator, then he can ask your questions from your interview guide, but you should take down the notes. If s/he is an alert individual who has initiative, s/he can also jot down some points from the interview, so that s/he can follow up on some of the interesting responses, which might deviate from your interview guide but might nevertheless be relevant new tracks of information.

Again, by not recording translations, you will have no way to know how well your translator is translating for you.

An important distinction has to be made between a "translator" and an "interpreter." A translator should simply relate the translation of the words back to you verbatim. (Google translator is a 'translator'.) An 'interpreter,' on the other hand, interprets the meaning of what your respondent says. The problem with this is that it is now the interpreter, rather than you, who is doing the interpretation. He or she might not be 'qualified' to be doing the interpretation for you, since he probably does not do so in the light of academic theory or concepts. Moreover, if you don't speak or comprehend the language yourself, you have no way of checking whether the respondent agrees that the interpreter's interpretation is accurate. So, here is another of the numerous challenges when doing qualitative research, for which there is no clear-cut solution.

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Broccoli on Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:28 am

Cameroonian wrote:but what if your research requirs you to make a lot ( a lot! ) of interviews which makes it more quantitative then qualitative? I don't have a tape recorder because with the electricity reliability ( sometimes too much power) humidity and dust it would not survive. I am planning on doing short structured interviews with the help of one of the NGO employees because most people here speak Pidgin. any tips or trics?

I don't understand your point or the issue you raise. If you are going to do research that aims to be more quantitative than qualitative, then in-depth interviews is the less-optimal choice of data collection techniques. You should instead be administering survey questionnaires!

However, before you can construct a valid questionnaire, you will first need to understand what is deemed by the population to be important or socially significant with respect to your research puzzle. For that you will probably need to start off with a few in-depth qualitative interviews, to identify and uncover the salient, recurring themes. Then you can construct a survey questionnaire on the basis of these salient themes, and then administer them to a wider sample of the population.

Generally, the best method for social research utilises a combination of qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques. That's because almost every social phenomenon that one investigates has both aspects to count and describe (e.g. the "how many?" questions), and aspects to understand, interpret, and to explain (i.e. the "why?" questions).

Remember, if you do unstructured and non-uniformly administered interviewing (say, N=25), then you can never give (even tentative) generalisations with any degree of accuracy or validity. What you will have are simply 25 individual stories. If you wish to be able to make statements like "Many of the rural inhabitants living in Gulu believe ....." or "most of my respondents claim ...." then you will need either to administer a survey questionnaire, or to made sure that you have a standard interview guide that you use consistently with each respondent (i.e. that you ask your questions in exactly the same way, each time). This is the only way that you will be able to ensure some degree of validity to your statements of general findings.





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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Alicia on Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:56 pm

@ Niels: for your own observations during those protests and everything, I find my voice recorder very useful as well. Today I walked around Tuol Sleng like a complete idiot talking to myself (or actually, my voice recorder), and it was really convenient, because in that way I was able to walk around and record my observations without having to stop to take notes. However, I can imagine that in some cases this might prove difficult, as people might think you're spying or something.


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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Broccoli on Tue Mar 08, 2011 4:01 pm

Yeah, this is a good tip, Alicia. Every time we need to stop and write down thoughts, it interrupts our thought process. Tape recording our verbal stream of consciousness can be a more effective way to record our observations. Moreover, don't just comments on what you see; use all of your senses--touch, smell, the feeling you get by being there, and even taste (when you can).

When organising your notes, you should divide them at least into two types. One would be your official "data" notes (e.g. interview transcripts, preliminary analysis and findings, organised according to your analytic frame etc.). The other set of notes would be more like a daily journal log, and might not seem immediately relevant or related to your research puzzle. However, both types of notes will invariably yield "evidence/data"--it's only not immediately obvious with the latter "journal log" sort.

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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Cameroonian on Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:55 am

This week I started the questionnaires and I really see now that I needed that first month just to understand the context of what is happening around me and finding the topics for my questionnaires. Really happy with how it is going! So if you think the first month is a bit of a waste you will find out later that it was not a waste at all and that it was very important for the rest of the research.
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Re: Interview transcripts

Post by Broccoli on Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:42 pm

Cameroonian wrote:This week I started the questionnaires and I really see now that I needed that first month just to understand the context of what is happening around me and finding the topics for my questionnaires.


So true!

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