Questioning Transcription: The Case for the Systematic and Reflexive Interviewing and Reporting (SRIR) Method (2017)
in: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Volume 18, Issue 2
The recording and verbatim transcription of interviews is often considered to be one of the more tedious but necessary aspects of the in-depth qualitative research process. While transcription is undoubtedly a necessary methodological tool for researchers focusing specifically on discourse and language, it has also been widely adopted by researchers across the social sciences, and is sometimes advocated as a means of inherently improving the rigour of qualitative research. Based on recent experience from fieldwork in rural China, where I had initially expected to utilise the verbatim transcription method, in this article I critically assess the role of transcription in the design, implementation, and outcome of cross-cultural multilingual qualitative research. I argue that, in certain cases, verbatim transcription can limit the kind of information that may be considered valuable as data, and delay the processes of data reduction and analysis, thus separating the researcher from the fieldwork event. In response to these critiques, I propose an alternative approach to collecting, categorising, coding, and analysing qualitative data: the systematic and reflexive interviewing and reporting (SRIR) method. The SRIR method utilises semi-structured and unstructured interviews conducted by two or more researchers. After completing an interview, researchers engage in reflexive dialogue, and jointly write interview and analysis reports. In this way, the SRIR method begins the process of coding and analysis in situ, thus facilitating critical engagement with emergent themes during fieldwork rather than afterwards. The method is, therefore, ideally suited to research projects that are designed to be open ended and flexible, in order to follow up on new information and potentially even change focus.