This node provides an example interview transcript. Please note that the interview has not been edited nor does it represent a "perfect" transcript. It does, however, provide insight into the interview process.
If you have any questions about writing your interview questions, preparing for your interview, or creating the interview transcript, please consult the other interview materials and/or contact me.
Interviewee: Associate Head of Mechanical Engineering
Interview Setting: Interview conducted in office of [professor's] office in the mechanical engineering building. The interview was conducted at 3:30 PM on Wednesday afternoon.
Affiliation with interviewee: Professor has been my professor for two classes. I have also spoken with him privately regarding attending graduate school and areas of study.
(Start of Interview)
Interviewer: Particularly in regard to design and development, what are your duties as a mechanical engineer?
Interviewee: Do you mean before I took this position or in this position.
Interviewee: In my position I have now, about half of my time is devoted to counseling and registration and other issues like that. About thirty to forty percent of my time is involved with teaching, doing preparation, helping out in the labs, and helping students. About five to ten percent of my time is spent being involved in academic committees and working with administrative items.
Interviewer: Do you do any research?
Interviewee: Most of my research is education-related. I have a grant from the National Science Foundation to put some CNC machines in the student labs to teach students.
Interviewer: What types of research did you do before when you were an associate professor?
Interviewee: I worked primarily with acoustics and noise control, with my emphasis being in active noise and vibration control. I worked with the aircraft fuselage and all of the vibrations and noises created in there and limiting their effects on the cockpit. Of course, automobile engines are also very noisy being so close to the driver. I also worked with compressors. I worked with really small compressors to really big compressors. I worked on small refrigeration units using passive and active control techniques. You�d be surprised at how big an issue refrigerator noise is overseas, in Europe and Asia with their tight living conditions. I also worked with huge engine compressors of up to sixty horsepower. That�s really big for a university, you know. I also worked with reciprocating compressors, screw compressors, scroll compressors, and rotary compressors.
Interviewer: Most of your current grants are education-related though, correct?
Interviewee: That�s right, most of them are related to education. But I don�t have much time in this job now to do that though. I feel that I need to teach with this job, because I need to have that link to the curriculum and the students.
Interviewer: How much contact have you had with industry?
Interviewee: I had quite a bit of contact when I worked as an associate professor. I spent quite a bit of time at the Herrick Labs. I worked with a couple of United Technologies companies, Sikorkey Helicopter and Carrier Corporation, who does refrigeration, Aspera, which is an Italian company that makes compressors, General Motors, and some governmental work.
Interviewer: Did you ever work out in industry before you became a professor?
Interviewee: I worked at NASA-Langley for a year after I graduated with my masters. It really isn�t like industry though. It�s an academic environment. It�s a very research-oriented environment. I also received an educational grant about a year ago to work the summer at Boeing. I worked in Philadelphia with the rotorcraft division. They make all levels of military aircraft. They make the Belle Boeing 609, which is a lot like a V-22. It takes off like a helicopter, straight up, and then the wings turn over and it flies. They also work on CH-47, which is a very old helicopter, in a support mode. They also do some work with the commanche attack helicopter. As you can tell, they work at a lot of different levels in the design.
Interviewer: What is the difference between designing for a new product versus an older product?
Interviewee: There are a lot of challenges no matter what the product. The military has been bringing old CH-47�s in to be repaired. Boeing has been gutting them out, leaving just a shell, and completely replacing the interior equipment. All of the design used to be on paper. The new Boeing 777 was a paperless design. They did a fly-through on the computer to check for interferences and other problems. One of the big issues with the CH-47 was whether to recreate this on the computer. It�s a difficult decision. It would make it a lot easier to make changes but it would take a lot longer. So they decided not to do it for this product.
Interviewer: What skills are necessary for a mechanical engineer to possess?
Interviewee: Number 1 is the technical skills. You�ve got to have those. Next are communication and teamwork skills. There is a need for intangibles to be successful. One of the big things at Boeing was timing. They had to pull together over 1,000,000 parts to make the 777. The engine had to come in at the right time to be connected to the fuselage, which had to be connected to other parts. I realized that what Boeing was doing was just a large-scale integration project. It requires a phenomenal amount of communication and scheduling. Being able to plan and schedule things is so important. You�re always behind time, over budget, and have to get deliverables to the customer. You have to make a decision with incomplete information. It�s a lot of gut feel and just making your best engineering judgement and taking your best shot.
Interviewer: What are the worst skills, or characteristics, for an engineer to have?
Interviewee: In some jobs, being highly individualistic can be a killer. Not in all jobs, but in some jobs. In a research environment, where an engineer can go off and do his own thing, that can be okay. But in the vast majority of jobs, not being strong in communication, and of course, technical skills, can have a very negative impact on your career. In fact, in a survey in the ASME magazine about two or three years ago, the top two skills employers wanted were communication skills and teamwork skills.
Interviewer: What is the difference between the academic world and industry? I know there are some similarities too, what are those?
Interviewee: In the academic world, people tend to be more reflective, more analytical, and less hands-on. That�s not always the case, but it tends to be that way. It�s partially because people who are attracted to this environment tend to be that way. In industry, the people tend to be more hands-on but the analytical skills tend to atrophy when not used. The academic environment cultivates those skills. But the environment is changing. There are more hands-on activities being added to the curriculum, along with some tighter links to industry. There is more of a need to be an entrepreneur and salesmen.
Interviewer: What is the typical day in the life of a mechanical engineer like?
Interviewee: A typical day varies radically for mechanical engineers depending on the job you have. A guy doing research is more independent, a guy doing customer service is dealing with people all day long, while a manager deals mainly with projects. It can really vary depending on what you want to do.
Interviewer: What can a person do to improve their situation?
Interviewee: The first thing is to define the company�s best practices. Define the process and look for ways to improve the process, to make it more efficient. I think that�s the idea behind the 9000 stuff, like ISO 9000 and QS 9000, to document the process. Unfortunately, some people just go through the motions, which is really a shame and a waste of time. You�ve got to take it seriously to do things the most efficient way. But I think the real key issue is getting people in areas they love to work. When you do that, the effort will be there. For example, I met a young engineer at Boeing who had been hired three times in the last three years by Boeing. She loved working with people and making decisions. Unfortunately, in her first two jobs she only made decisions once every two or three months and she hated it. Now they have her in a people where she�s working with people and making decisions and she loves it. I think it�s real important for companies to match people with what they love to do.
Interviewer: In general, what methods or criteria are used to evaluate mechanical engineers?
Interviewee: At Boeing, the backs of the engineer�s badges have criteria that is wanted for the engineers to work on at Boeing. There are twelve things: technical skills, communications, teamwork, initiative, productivity, continuous quality improvement, customer satisfaction, innovation and creativity, integrity � that�s really become a big issue in industry, especially at Boeing when I was there with the merger and all, leadership, risk-taking, and developing people.
Interviewer: I find it interesting to see that risk-taking is on there. It seemed like that has never been encouraged at GM.
Interviewee: Well, you can�t just go taking incredible risks. They are calculated risks.
Interviewer: When designing a new product, what issues are typically given the most consideration?
Interviewee: Again, it varies depending on the product. First, you have to understand the customer and find a way to give them what they want. You have to get a sense of where the market is going. Take inline skates. They came out of nowhere and now they�re selling four million skates a year. It was a local market in California and they took it national. Being able to see needs is very important and having the creativity to know how to meet them is the hard part.
Interviewer: Is the procedure for process development similar to that for products?
Interviewee: Yeah, I�d say they�re similar. You need to do some benchmarking on what�s out there to see where you stand and brainstorm to find what you can do.
Interviewer: How are design procedures developed and followed in corporations?
Interviewee: Wow, those procedures vary greatly and to tell you the truth, I don�t think they�re followed very tightly. Part of the problem is that I don�t think they are stated explicitly. You don�t want to be rigid, but you need to be efficient. You need to come up with a plan and extrapolate what you can based on your design. It�s a real art at this stage. It needs to be tailored to what you are trying to accomplish. There are multiple approaches to this, but it really needs to be designed explicitly and improved from there.
Interviewer: What does a graduating mechanical engineer need to know that he probably does not know?
Interviewee: It�s not so much what you don�t know as much as it is what will change. The things you like to do now might now be what you like to do in the future. Interest change in time and there must be a willingness to change with them. I think another important thing to recognize for some students is that your whole life is not your job. It can be very easy to ignore other things, but I think the real key is balance. The ME program is very rigorous and everyone is working very hard, and as a result sometimes they don�t recognize the need for balance.
Interviewer: Thanks for your time.
Interviewee: You�re welcome.
Other Analyzing Professional Contexts Project Links:
Formatting Reference | Project 2 Overview | Interview | Observation | Example Field Notes | Data Coding | Example Data Coding | Contextual Analysis Plan & Report
421 syllabus | 421 calendar
Table of Contents
“[I]t is a truism to note that all transcription is in some sense interpretation …” (Cook, 1990, p.12)
In the first post of this 2 part series on how to transcribe an interview for dissertation, I gave you on overview of the transcription process, 3 ways to transcribe your interviews and made a few remarks on accuracy of the transcripts and audio quality. In this second and final post in this series on how to transcribe academic interviews for dissertation I get into the minutia of transcription. How do you transcribe? What are the different ways you can transcribe your thesis interviews (with examples)?
How do you transcribe interviews for dissertation?
How do you transcribe, what do you do when you are transcribing. Well things you need to think about as you transcribe are first the names of respondents. It is useful to just use a standard format for entering the names. I suggested some of them here.
You can put the person’s actual name and perhaps the initials letter of their surnames. So for Mary Clark, you can write Mary C on your transcript. Learn to consistent, every time Mary talks you have the same letters in front of those speech. You can also identify the interviewee simply as “Interviewee” or “Respondent” or even “Resp”. Again be consistent.
For the interviewer you might have “I” for interviewer or IV, or INT or Intvr. You can put your name on it if you like, G for Gandalf and so on. But be consistent, so you use the same name all the time on the transcript to identify when the interviewer speaks. At weloty we use Intvr: and Resp: as our default speaker identifications.
You also need to think about the formatting of the speaker designation. The most common approach is have the name/identifier, and then you have the colon, and then indented text. In other cases some transcribers put the name of the speaker on a separate line. So there will be an identifier and then the next line the speech starts. You might also want to bold or italize the interviewer or the interviewee to make it easier for you to identify who is speaking. Here are some examples:
Jane= interviewer, Paul =interviewee
Tell me how you came to be a transcriber?
Well, it’s a funny story, I started transcribing when I was…
Resp: Yes, and they keep referring their fellow students to my transcription site.
Intvr: Last question, what do you find to be the most challenging part when transcribing interviews?
Resp: That’s a difficult one. Most of the time it’s the audio quality of the interview that is..
Now which format you use might depend on what software you are using. There are different standards for different kinds of software. So you think need to think about that. For instance, Atlas-ti or Nvivo require that their transcripts be formatted differently. But again read the manuals that come with the software. That there was no single best way of doing it, one program wants it done one way, one program another way. And some QDAs will accept different formats than others.
Anonymization of your transcripts is very important. As far as possible make sure that if anything is published when you do the research the name should be anonymized so that the names of people and contextual names like the organizations they work for, the towns they work in and so on, all of those are anonymized.
But you will need to keep the original names themselves. It’s common practice to keep the names on the transcripts during the analysis. So I have the original data with the original names on it. But when it is published then it gets anonymized at that stage.
On the other hand you might decide it is better anonymize it right from the start. The problem with that is you lose the context in your mind. For instance if you anonymized Mary to you respondent 2 or, June or something like that, so you have to remember June was actually Mary or respondent 2 was Mary.
Makes it slightly harder for you to think about what you are doing and what you can remember you have used there. So, that is why I prefer to keep it unanonymised until the last minute, which you will need to do that eventually. But remember to publish only anonymized versions.
Checking for Accuracy
Checking for accuracy. What if you can’t hear things? Then use a standard thing like this square brackets 3 dots square brackets […], to indicate something missing. Something was said, but none of us can work out, the typist can’t, I can’t, we can’t work out what was said, just can’t remember it. So it is missing.
Other possibilities, [bribery?] Did the person actually say bribery? I am not really sure. So put it is in square brackets put question mark, just to indicate that you are not quite sure about what is being said. In this instances it might also be really helpful to insert timestamps. So […][00:05:34] to clearly indicate where the missing part is in the audio or [bribery?] [00:08:32].
Also printing with wider margins, because you are going to be writing on things. The idea is that when you start to code and work with this material you do write on it a lot. So double spacing or a spacing and a half, between the lines and wide margins to write in on the side of the page are really helpful, because you need space to write in those notes. You don’t always have to use them all the time. But you know some bits will be very detailed and lots of lines, lots of comments on the side, so leave space for them.
Structure the transcripts. Two things I want to talk about here, 1) is to do with the software and a lot of these things depend on what software you are using. Some of it you simply do it consistently, so if you have got a structured questionnaire, where everybody gets asked the same questions, then make sure you use something like Q1, Q2 and the question perhaps, and always using exactly the same wording on everyone’s transcripts. So you can always be consistent about how do you find things, and how you search for things.
If you are going to use NVivo, put those questions headings in a heading style. Very similar to styles in Word. So NVivo uses the same style as word. So putting the Heading 1 style, when you upload the transcripts into NVivo, you could automatically code those headings as codes in the programs. Please contact us to discuss your NVivo transcription requirements, so we can decide what the best fit is for you.
Section format is another issue particularly if you are doing NVivo or Atlas-ti. Some software allow some use of automatic coding. For instance, I’ve formatted transcripts so that there were 2 kinds of returns between the speeches.
The speech was always the lawyer asking a question, and the witness replied. I had 2 returns, then the lawyer asking the questions, then a single return, then the witness replying and then 2 returns. I did that because the software the client was using automatically assign each of those speakers interchanges as a paragraph.
So again it needs reading the computer manuals to check, what is going on and how you can then set things up for what you need.
Styles of Transcription
I talked a little about this in Part 1 of this series, but let’s have a deeper discussion about the levels of transcription. The problem is people don’t speak in whole sentences. They repeat themselves, they hesitate, they stutter, they talk in very long sentences. There is no full stops in speech. They use contractions like don’t, coz, I’m and so on. And they use filler words as they hesitate, you know, I mean, err, mmh and so on, all sorts of different sounds.
The question is do you transcribe all those things that people do? Do you spend time with all these issues, repetitions, hesitations and so on? Now for some purposes you do do that. If you are doing conversation analysis then this is the kind of detail you need to transcribe.
So the question is how much of the interview interaction do we want to capture? I think there are 3 different ways of transcribing: what I call the intelligent verbatim approach, the (strict) verbatim approach, and finally Discourse or the Conversation Analysis, CA. Deciding which approach to use largely depends on your research questions and the intent of the study. As an important step in data management and analysis, the process of thesis transcription must be congruent with the methodological design and theoretical underpinnings of each investigation.
Let me show you some examples of each of these approaches.
Intelligent Verbatim Approach
To begin with the intelligent verbatim approach. Now, I plan to pen a detailed guide on intelligent verbatim transcription so keep your eyes peeled out for it.
Intelligent Verbatim Transcript Example.
Frank: True, it’s going to be the greatest in the history of the world.
Jon: I’d expect no less. I think it will put an end to the conflict in the Middle East, I mean quite possibly.
Frank: That’s true.
Jon: No, no I’m confusing that with a nuclear bomb. I’m sorry, yours is not going to bomb. Yours is actually going to do really well. But let’s share some ideas I want to run by you and then if I can get some information from you it’s going to help a whole lot.
This is snippet from a interview transcript between Jon and Frank. The purpose of the interview was to gather information on a product that’s being launched. So the intelligent verbatim approach works really well in this particular case. It reads fairly easily and from the transcript you can quickly get the information you need. This type of transcription is perfect for researchers using the grounded approach or analyzing for themes and categories.
Verbatim Transcription Approach
I have written a couple of detailed posts on verbatim transcription. The first is a general overview of verbatim transcription and the other a detailed verbatim transcription guide for psychotherapy interviews and sessions. Please refer to those posts for a more detailed guide on how to create verbatim transcripts. A short example.
Verbatim Transcription Example.
Frank: Oh true, it’s going to be the greatest in the history of the world.
Jon: I I I would expect no less. I think it will put an end to um to the conflict in the Middle East I mean quite possibly.
Frank: [CT] That’s true.
Jon: No, no way I’m I’m I’m confusing that with a nuclear bomb. I’m sorry, that’s that’s, yours is not going to bomb. Yours is actually gonna do really well. But ah [chuckles] let’s ah let’s share some, I guess I guess some ideas I wanna run by you and then if we can talk through um, if I can get some um information from you it’s gonna help a whole lot.
Same interview, different transcript. As you can see, there’s more detail of the interview interaction in the verbatim transcript as opposed to the intelligent verbatim transcript. Verbatim transcripts are great if you interested in the dynamics of the interview.
Discourse or the Conversation Analysis
Conversation analysis (CA) is a “unique” (ten HAVE 1990) form of qualitative social research. Books have been written about this approach to transcription = there is no enough space on this blog for me to adequately cover conversational transcription convections. But, I’ll provide you with a few references that you can use. Jefferson, Gail (1985). ‘An exercise in the transcription and analysis of laughter’ is a great starting point and a valuable entry point into learning more about the Jeffersonian CA transcription notation. I’d also recommend Ochs, Elinor (1979) ‘Transcription as theory’. Even for us non-discourse analysis researchers, it’s a great read. And for a critique: Ashmore and Reed (2000) Innocence and Nostalgia in Conversation Analysis.
Discourse Analysis Transcript Example.
Here is an image of a discourse analysis transcript. There are many symbols used conversational analysis transcription and creating an appendix of what each symbol denotes is the first thing you do before you begin transcription.
If you are going to use a conversation analysis approach you do need this kind of level of transcription of the data. But for most of us this is not relevant, even if you are doing discourse analysis, this is not relevant. Verbatim approach should get you what you want.
Dissertation Transcript Cover Page
As you transcribe interviews it is useful to have with them information about the interview itself, or about the case if there are separate interviews perhaps. So it is common to have a document headers sheet with the data. Again if you are doing it in software, then you keep it in a certain place. In NVivo document properties is a place where you keep this information.
Typically things you would have here are, choose the names. If you anonymize the interviewee’s name, use this coversheet or document header sheet keep the pseudonym, you can separate it after the interview if you want to.
You can also add information about location, time, topic and circumstance, and add your interview notes. Also include the name of the interview, if you are in a team of people it might be useful to name who is interviewing the person.
If you are taking field notes as well, and I certainly would advice that if you are doing interviews to take notes as well recording the interview, you take notes about important things that you think about, or things that happen, or ideas that occur to you as you interview the people. So again link it or have the name of the document on the cover sheet.
Here’s a sample dissertation interview cover page you can use.
Interviewee: [Name of interviewee] [Pseudonym]
Interviewer: [Name of interviewer]
Date and Time: [mm/dd/yyyy][00:00]
Location: [Place interview was conducted]
Audio file information: [Name][Duration]
Link to field notes:
Link to follow up interview transcript:
That’s it on this series on how to transcribe your interviews for dissertation. If you have any burning questions post them below and I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And if you find transcribing your dissertation interviews to be a chore – get in touch. We’ll be glad to transcribe them for you.
Ashmore, Malcolm & Reed, Darren (2000). Innocence and Nostalgia in Conversation Analysis: The Dynamic Relations of Tape and Transcript . Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(3), Art. 3.
Cook, Guy (1990). Transcribing infinity: Problems of context presentation. Journal of Pragmatics, 14, 1-24.
Have, Paul ten (1990). Methodological issues in conversation analysis. Bulletin de Méthodologie Sociologique, 27 (June), 23-51.
Jefferson, Gail (1985). An exercise in the transcription and analysis of laughter. In T. Van Dijk (Ed.), Handbook of Discourse Analysis, Vol. 3: Discourse and Dialogue (pp.25-34). London, UK: Academic Press.
Ochs, Elinor (1979). Transcription as theory. In E. Ochs & B. Schieffelin (Eds.), Developmental Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.