Transcribe everything! Formal and informal data collection in qualitative research

this post focuses on ways that the speed and volume of our transcription service can change how you design research, and think about data.

Transcribe everything! Formal and informal data collection in qualitative research

We've just launched our automated transcription service, which can help you get text representations of your audio and video data that makes it easier to analyse and write up your qualitative research. We've written before about some of the issues with automated transcriptions, and about what makes our approach so secure and unique. But this post focuses on ways that the speed and volume of our transcription service can change how you design research, and think about data.

One of the main differences with our service is the amount of transcription included: 50 hours a month! It's as much as other services offer in a whole year! While most qualitative projects are unlikely to generate that much audio in a month of data collection, the affordability and accessibility allows us to think differently about what data we can collect, analyse and include as part of our qualitative projects.

When transcription was manual, or undertaken by professional transcribers, it was very expensive in terms of time or cost. However, when this dynamic changes, it allows us to rethink what we can call 'data' in our project. We can not only transcribe the semi-structured interview, but our own verbal reflections afterwards. Quirkos Transcribe even works with Quirkos Web on your phone, so you can record the interview on your phone, and have the recording transcribed while you are still finishing your coffee. You can review it there, annotate with your own notes, start coding, highlight key moments while fresh in your mind, or even share with the participant for permission or further discussion.

Participants can record their own thoughts and feelings with verbal diaries (just by recording on their phone) and this can become transcribed data. People who would struggle with formal verbal or written testimony can contribute their voices to research and evaluations in their own way. I also see it as allowing for more voices to take part in the research process - when it's easier to include more potential participants, the better research can reflect often marginalised voices. It's one of the reasons I was so keen to find a transcription system that would work well with different languages and accents.

When working with creative methods, like art, photo or other media to generate data for research, often the most important part of the data is not the artifact itself, but the discussion with the creator and others about what is being represented. When people are encouraged to draw how they represent themselves, the picture is important - but it's often part of a process where having the artist explain their work gives deep insight into the research question. Creating recordings and transcripts of these sessions can be really helpful.

In ethnography, you can record (with participants permission) whole days of interactions, meetings and observation points, and quickly have a transcript to parse. It can change how much you can record of your participant observation, reducing your reliance on written notes that might distract participants and lead to the researcher missing subtle occurrences.

It can also be an useful tool in the overall research process, so you can record meetings with supervisors and immediately have them written up, so you don't need to worry about taking notes, or writing down suggested references! It can also be used to document group discussions in a project, especially in the planning and analysis parts of the projects, when the record of these meetings can not only be used to make notes and action lists, but record important discussion about theme and theory generation.

While just having the audio or video recordings of these situations are helpful, a transcript is really important too. We can read a transcript much faster than we can listen to the spoken word, and it's easy to search for keywords, or scroll through to find a particular bit. And when we come to analyse and write up, quotes from the transcripts can be essential. While many researchers rely on partial transcripts (of just the key parts), automated transcription means we can have all the data to choose from.

We are so excited about offering Quirkos Transcribe, not just for the normal work of getting text of your semi-structured interviews and focus groups, but all the different ways you can make the most of all the things people say around you in a research project. The video below shows just how easy it is to add transcriptions of audio to your Quirkos Cloud projects in Quirkos Web:

Every user of Quirkos Cloud gets 100 minutes free, and if you need more you can subscribe to Quirkos Transcribe from just US$12 a month. And if you've not got a Quirkos Cloud account yet, give the 14 day free trial a spin - yes, it includes the free transcription time!