Step 0: Preparing the data for analysis

Author(s): 
Laurence.Kohn
Author(s): 
Wendy.Christiaens

Independent of the methodological approach, a qualitative analysis always starts with the preparation of the gathered data. Ideally, to enable accurate data analysis the recorded information is transcribed. A transcript is the full length literal text of the interview. It often produces a lot of written text.

Good quality transcribing is not simply transferring words from the tape to the page. The wording is only part of the message. A lot of additional information is to be found in the way people speak. Tone and inflection, timing of reactions are important indicators too. With experienced observers and note-takers, a thematic analysis of the notes taken during the interviews could be used as a basis for analysis of the “non-verbal” communication.

Transcribing is time consuming and costly. The research team should consider in advance the question "who should do the transcribing”? Resources may be needed to pay an audio typist, a strategy usually more cost effective than a researcher. Be aware that “typists” are often unfamiliar with the terminology or language used in the interviews or focus groups which can lead to mistakes and/or prolong the transcribing time.

It may not be essential to transcribe every interview or focus group. It is possible to use a technique known as tape and notebook analysis, which means taking notes from a playback of the tape recorded interview and triangulating them with the notes taken by the observers and note-takers. However, bias can occur if inexperienced qualitative researchers attempt tape and notebook analysis. It is certainly preferable to produce full transcripts of the first few interviews. Once the researcher becomes familiar with the key messages emerging from the data tape analysis may be possible. Transcripts are especially valuable when several researchers work with the same data.