Transcribing and Analysing Interviews

I have done about 12 interviews so far and will probably end up with about 15 in total.  The interviews are recorded using an app on my iphone and then I use dropbox to store the recordings. I transcribed each interview verbatim to enable a familiarity with the material by listening closely to the interviewee. As Gray states, transcription can seem an onerous task but it has the advantage of engaging the researcher in a profound way with the material. Indeed, Gray suggests that detail such as voice qualities and pauses in the conversation can be significant for the interpretation and analysis. For example, I state when someone laughs and describe the nature of that laugh as best I can.

Furthermore, Gray’s approach enables the emergence of certain themes and ideas to develop as part of the transcribing process.

In this way analysis and interpretation became part of the process of research. This is when I was able to use my imagination, being sensitive to the material and experimental in my analysis. (Gray, 2003, p. 149)

Following Gray’s methodology, I have created categories such as: control, freedom, sense of responsibility, passion, role models, key networks, precarious work, happy, work and lifestyle, and so on (about 20 so far) based partly on the entrepreneurs’ stories but also as a result of key themes arising from the literature. Sections from the transcripts are collected under each category to enable me to see each entrepreneurs’ articulation of the theme together; these can be compared and contrasted in relation to each other and to the literature. For the analysis, Gray advocates flexibility and an open mind to the potential relations between categories and for new themes to emerge. I am using simple processes with colored pens and large sheets of paper to make these connections – a bit like a mind map or a conceptual map.

But Gray also talks about the importance of not loosing the individual’s voice through this process of chopping up the text. The individual narrative or story created during the interview is unique. While the idea of a ‘true’ story is nowadays considered an anathema, it is not up to the researcher to re-describe it. The researcher needs to respect the interviewees’ story as it was told at the time of the discussion. For more information on this subject see Narratives in Social Science Research by Barbara Czarniawska.

  1. Thanks for this post. Sounds really interesting. I’m going to be doing some transcribing as part of my PhD, so I guess this is something to keep in mind. I’d be interested in hearing how you got on with the actual analysis once you have this wealth of information transcribed, I find it hard to visualise how you would actually analyse it, but I suspect it’ll become clearer once you start the process.
    (I’m a quantitative researcher by background so here lies some of the difficulty!)

  2. Thanks for your comment. You can use software like Nvivo for the analysis but I’m not too keen on it. I know many people doing qualitative studies who have used it very effectively. As I am only doing 15 interviews I guess that although that still adds up to a lot, it is not 100! It all depends on the discipline in which you are working. I’m in cultural policy studies / cultural studies and I have found the book I mention above by Ann Gray is a very practical resource. Many of the core themes which will determine the analytical framework have been identified through the literature review, so the starting point is to gather all relevant data under each theme. But you also have to trust the process – you learn through doing. For me that involved a lot of mind mapping, post it notes, coloured pens and really becoming familiar with the data. The best advice I can give is do some pilot interviews (just 2) and start the analytical process for a short paper or conference presentation based on those interviews. You learn a lot and build up your confidence. I also wrote quite a lot about transparency and reflexivity in my methodology. And never pretend you are being ‘objective’ particular when undertaking qualitative research. I hope that helps.

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