data transcripts

The Limitations of Transcripts: It is Time to Talk About the Elephant in the Room

Transcripts of qualitative in-depth interviews and focus group discussions (as well as ethnographers’ field notes and recordings) are typically an important component in the data analysis process. It elephant-in-the-roomis by way of these transcribed accounts of the researcher-participant exchange that analysts hope to re-live each research event and draw meaningful interpretations from the data. Because of the critical role transcripts often play in the analytical process, researchers routinely take steps to ensure the quality of their transcripts. One such step is the selection of a transcriptionist; specifically, employing a transcriptionist whose top priorities are accuracy and thoroughness as well as someone who is knowledgeable about the subject category, sensitive to how people speak in conversation, comfortable with cultural and regional variations in the language, etc.*

Transcripts take a prominent role, of course, in the utilization of any text analytic or computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) program. These software solutions revolve around “data as text,” with any number of built-in features to help sort, count, search, diagram, connect, quote, give context to, and collaborate on the data. Analysts are often instructed to begin the analysis process by absorbing the content of each transcript (by way of multiple readings) followed by a line-by-line inspection of the transcript for relevant code-worthy text. From there, the analyst can work with the codes taking advantage of the various program features.

An important yet rarely discussed impediment to deriving meaningful interpretations from Read Full Text