47 hours of transcribing

I have always enjoyed transcribing. Well, to be honest, I find it difficult to begin, especially when the recordings last for hours and hours, but once I’m in front of the computer with my headphones on and the magic pedal under my feet, there’s no stopping. Sometimes I think that transcription could be addictive, especially when I’m trying to battle the maths evidence that an hour of conversation gets transcribed in six. I suppose this is when my competitive side shows…

As the title suggests,  I have spent the last two weeks transcribing a bunch of focus groups discussions among other things. I have previously been transcribing a great deal of data for my research activities and the schools I have been supporting in their inquiries (see SERN Project), but I have always had the experience of working with data in English. To some extent this is an advantage, as I was only required to take the words off the tapes and produce a written account of what was said and by whom. Well this time it is a bit different, a bit of a challenge.

A little background information would definitely explain my anxiousness with the above mentioned 47 hours. Working on a project which directly benefits my country is both rewarding and exciting. Forget the fact that my Research Assistant role there is not related to my particular field of study, I enjoy every day of work and find it fascinating to have to opportunity to see how people from different fields carry out research and conceptualize human behaviour.

So as part of all this, I travelled to Bulgaria (yes, a business trip!) to interview several people. Not only this was an opportunity to polish my skills as an interviewer in my native language, but it also took some pressure off me knowing that I do sound native and did not have to worry about accents, etc… Excellent practice! Three days later, interviews done, back in England, back in my house, bringing myself to transcribe these eights hours of talk… I really felt differently, because after transcribing I had to translate the data for my English colleagues. Now this is a challenge yet to be addressed, but I am anxious. It’s not just about taking words off the tape, it’s about making sure these words make sense in another language and still mean the same… and I find this tricky. This will be my first time translating data… 47 hours of transcribing and I’m not even near the end. But hold on, being a researcher is about taking challenges and pushing your limits, right? At least this is how I feel…

So in summary, there are a few lessons I have learned about transcribing during the past year or so…

First of all, it enables me to reflect on my interviewing style and construction of questions.There is always something to work on, and I have learned a lot listening to myself conducting interviews and then practicing before the next one. I have found this exercise especially helpful in terms of leading questions and the magic silence that actually says ‘Go on, I am listening to you’…

Secondly, transcribing helps me to stand aside from the data, be detached from it and see it from a different viewpoint. This is when I start jotting down the first notes on a transcript and reflect on my role as a researcher.

And finally, a little race with the clock is always welcome… sometimes I win, some times I don’t… this time, I saved an hour – 47 hours of transcribing!!!


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