Interpreting your findings

Verbatim transcriptions

Verbatim transcription means transcribing what everyone in your focus group or interview says word for word. You can either do the transcription yourself or get it done professionally. The advantage of DIY is that you get to know your findings very well. This is useful when writing up and reporting because you can reach for specific quotes to support your analysis.  The downside is that it’s very time-consuming. A professional transcribing organisation can get it done quickly, but it costs.

Verbatim transcriptions are dense and it may seem at first that some of it is irrelevant but you’ll often find good ideas and new directions – be open to them and don’t be put off.


Key themes

Listen back to your recordings and read your transcripts many times – never just once. Then ‘tag’ your transcriptions by underlining or highlighting (perhaps by colour coding) what you consider to be important points. Compare the transcripts of all of your different sessions and your tags, read and re-read, and from this key themes will emerge – they’ll often just jump off the page at you. Transcriptions from different sessions may confirm key themes or act as a counterpoint to them - note them down together with the supporting verbatim quotes as the first stage of interpreting your findings. It’s often valuable to ask someone else to read the transcriptions too and then discuss it with them.

What’s said in the moment is what’s important – don’t try to improve it and don’t edit it so that it seems more flattering.


Keep an open mind

Try hard to remain impartial and not to approach your analysis with pre-conceived ideas. Let the themes emerge, don’t force them into something you want to hear and don’t bias the results with your own hunches.

See Research conduct and ethics.


Analysing observation and informal interactions

Your field notes from observation or informal interactions with users or audiences can be a useful way of supporting and enriching your analysis from transcribed sources.

top tips

  • Verbatim transcription is very time consuming, so consider paying a professional. As a rule of thumb it costs around £1 a minute of recording. If you use a professional, check it through it anyway because they may miss something or make mistakes.
  • Do not ignore or try to change what comes through – be open to hearing difficult results.

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