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Qualitative Research: Interviews

Health Project in Costa Rica

Transcription Software

Please note these suggestions are not endorsements of these products.

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking
    Speech recognition software package for Windows personal computers, developed and sold by Nuance Communications. Must be trained to recognize a person's voice so may have limited use for transcription of more than one voice.
  • Express Scribe
    A transcription assistance program for PC or Mac; control audio playback using a transcription foot pedal or keyboard (with 'function' keys). The free version supports common audio formats, including wav, mp3, wma and dct.

What is interviewing?

  • Involves asking respondents a series of open-ended questions. 
  • Can generate both quantifiable data and more in-depth qualitative data.
  • Can range from formal to informal, structured to unstructured, and can vary in number of people involved.
  • Involves questioning, prompting, listening, and evaluating.

Tips for Taking Interview Notes

  • Begin each notebook entry with the date, time, place, and type of data collection event.
  • Leave space on the page for expanding your notes, or plan to expand them on a separate page.
  • Take notes strategically. It is usually practical to make only brief notes during data collection. Direct quotes can be especially hard to write down accurately. Rather than try to document every detail or quote, write down key words and phrases that will trigger your memory when you expand notes.
  • Use shorthand. Because you will expand and type your notes soon after you write them, it does not matter if you are the only person who can understand your shorthand system. Use abbreviations and acronyms to quickly note what is happening and being said.
  • Write on the interview question guide. Save time by writing notes directly in the question guide under the relevant question. If it is not possible to record direct quotations, write down key words and phrases.
  • Distinguish clearly between participant comments and your own observations.You could use your own initials or “MO” to indicate “my observation.” For example:“MO – embarrassed by empty beer bottles in room.”  This documents observation that participant seemed embarrassed about the empty beer bottles in the room.
  • Cover a range of observations.In addition to documenting what people say, note as well as you can their body language, moods, or attitudes; the general environment; and other relevant information.

Tips adapted from Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector's Field Guide

Suggested Readings and Film

  • Kinsey (2004)
    Film presents a fictionalized account of the life of Alfred Kinsey, noted sex researcher. The film portrays in detail qualitative interviewing conducted by Kinsey’s team, and his efforts to ensure that they are actually measuring the sexual practices of the subjects.