Research Interview Transcription Issues

TranscriptionI am nearly finished with my transcription, and as I mentioned last week, I am quickly becoming aware of the politics around transcription, namely those where people assume (uncritically, of course!) the way they handle these issues are done in the same way by everybody engaged in transcription.  Into the literature I went for some guidance, and what I found was somewhat surprising.

One of the articles I read when I searched the literature, Transcription in Research and Practice: From Standardization of Technique to Interpretive Positionings, raised a number of important points that invited me to pause for reflection on how I am handling myown research project:

  • transcription is theory-laden, and there are not uniform conventions or standards for how to make decisions
  • language and meanings are inherently situational and contextual; the theory and method for handling transcription needs to be addressed and clarified by the researcher
  • transcriptions seem to be interpretive constructions arrived at by choices by the researcher

How often I find research papers that gloss over or do not even acknowledge the transcription of the interviews, without addressing any of the concerns or issues that fundamentally influence the direction of the research?

While this article is a bit dated (1999) and I have located some more recent works that I will try to process later this week, I found Lapadat’s and Lindsay’s concluding paragraph (p. 82) inciteful, leaving me with the feeling that I need to know more:

Unlike Kvale (1996), we believe that the problematic issues cannot be avoided simply by omitting the step of transcription. The hard work of interpretation still needs to be done. Researchers across disciplines for many years have found transcription to be an important component of the analysis process. We want to emphasize that it is not just the transcription product—those verbatim words written down—that is important; it is also the process that is valuable. Analysis takes place and understandings are derived through the process of constructing a transcript by listening and re-listening, viewing and re-viewing. We think that transcription facilitates the close attention and the interpretive thinking that is needed to make sense of the data. It is our contention that transcription as a theory-laden component of qualitative analysis warrants closer examination.

Yes, I do indeed need to closer examine these (and other) issues I am confronting now in my research.

3 thoughts on “Research Interview Transcription Issues

  1. It is an interesting point of view. The same issues sometimes arise in court transcriptions and how a jury, for example, may have a different take on the verbatim transcription versus the original hearing of the evidence. Meaning is derived from both the text and the “context”.
    To what extent is transcription in this line of research identified as “story”?

  2. @Nancy

    Thank you for your comments and insights, Nancy. To meaning being derived form the text and the context, perhaps we can also add history, experience, and perspective.

    Thinking more about this, it seems we cannot have objective text without having meaning infused in it. A pause in the interview, for example, would not show up in the transcription if we are being literal, unless, of course, there were some prior decision about how to handle that (none of which appears in most of the research I read, at least). The “meaning” is much more complicated than the words alone lead us at times to believe!


Comments are closed.