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How to Transcribe a Focus Group the Right Way

By: Brittany Corners | Published: April 28, 2015

how-to-transcribe-a-focus-groupAsking your customers to complete a survey assumes they know how they feel about a topic, but sometimes they really don’t. Open discussion may be necessary before a person is able to form his or her opinion. Focus groups nicely fit the bill for such occasions.

Focus groups are unlike any other form of market research, and so is the way they are transcribed. Transcribing a focus group requires more attention to detail than, say, transcribing a typical customer interview. Focus groups are comprised of several participants, sometimes a dozen or more. This can make it difficult for transcribers to accurately reproduce the proceedings of such an event. When focus groups are large, there tends to be more background noise and distinguishing between speakers may not always be possible. Lastly, the purpose of a focus group is to capture the thoughts and opinions of individuals as they are being formed, which means non-verbal cues such as laughter, claps, “umms,” “ahhs,” pauses and stutters are important aspects of the conversation.

The following is a list of pointers on how to transcribe a focus group the right way:

1. Transcribe verbatim.

A true verbatim transcript transfers every spoken word, exactly the way it was originally delivered, including non-verbal utterances (referred to as fillers), such as “umm,” throat clearing, laughter and even silence.

A transcriptionist who is typing verbatim takes down every detail he or she hears in the recording. Fillers are typically spelled out, while ambient sounds, like doors opening or background voices, are described in parentheses.

2. Avoid the urge to “clean up” the transcript.

If a focus group participant uses expletive language, commits grammatical errors, mispronounces or misuses words, avoid the urge to correct this language while typing. If the use of a mispronounced word makes it difficult to understand the meaning of what was said, put the correct word in brackets or parenthesis within the transcribed document.

3. Include time stamps in the transcribed document.

Time stamping in transcription refers to the insertion of time in minutes or seconds into a transcribed document at regular intervals. Time stamps provide a marker of where in the audio each spoken word can be found. Time stamps are useful for focus groups because it allows reviewers to go back and reference discussions without listening to the entire audio recording.

4. Keep it confidential.

It is common for a focus group conductor to keep the identities of focus group participants anonymous. Instead of names, consider using identifiers such as “Speaker A, B, C,” etc. Alternatively, you can omit this information altogether but it may be difficult to read the transcribed document if you choose this route.

When transcribing a focus group, it is important to capture as much detail as possible so that the reviewers of the transcript can derive meaningful information. It’s not just about “what” was said, it is “how” it was said that can make all the difference in the world.

Want to learn more about transcription best practices? Follow us on Twitter @TranscribeCom.


Next read:
4 Interesting Uses for Audio Transcription


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  46. […] Tip: Read these tips for moderating a focus group discussion and properly transcribing it for later use. […]

  47. […] Consiglio: leggi questi consigli per moderare discussioni di gruppo e per trascrivere correttamente le risposte per utilizzare in seguito. […]

  48. […] Astuce : Lisez ces conseils pour animer une discussion de groupe et la transcrire correctement pour une utilisation ultérieure. […]

  49. […] Tips: Läs dessa tips för att moderera en fokusgruppsdiskussion och korrekt transkribera den för senare användning. […]

  50. […] Tip: Lees deze tips voor het leiden van een discussie binnen de doelgroep en goed transcriberen voor later gebruik. […]