Market research transcriptions are essential to any qualitative research project. So, it’s only important to provide spotless, or at least workable, audio recordings to whatever general transcription services you’re using for higher quality transcripts. While it’s tricky to record multiple respondent discussions, it is absolutely doable with these easy tips on how to properly record focus groups for transcriptions:

1. Control Background Noise

Choose a location that’s free from ambient noises like echoes, indoor, and outdoor noises. It would also help to be mindful of instances when participants themselves make the recording challenging to transcribe, as they form “sub-meetings” or side conversations during the discussion. Low-volume voices or whispers won’t seem like a threat to the recording, but it actually is, especially when many people are talking simultaneously which makes the main dialogue tough to understand.

Allot a break time for your respondents to snack and drink when conducting lengthy discussions. Be it just chips, biscuits, or coffee – the sound of wrappers and glasses disrupt the quality of the discussion and audio.

2. Strategize the Position of the Recorder

You probably know the size of your focus group beforehand. It is imperative to the quality of the recording to strategize seating arrangements the way the recorder catches everyone’s voices clearly. A small focus group with only 4-6 participants is the ideal volume as they can be closely positioned in a circle, usually with just a coffee table in the middle where the dictaphone is placed. For more than 6 participants, it is highly recommended to utilize boundary microphones evenly positioned on a boardroom table. Remember to be careful when moving your recorder while turned on as well. The sound of the mic being hit or bumped into things drown out people’s voices.

Avoid using mobile phone recorders AT ALL COST, as these are specifically designed for close up recording only. Keep in mind that focus group transcriptions are highly dependent on the quality of your recording, so the type of recorder you use also plays a big role at ensuring high quality audio.

3. Respondent Identification

It is difficult to label the names of large-scale focus group respondents, especially if some of them don’t speak up frequently. The voices may sound quite similar in the recording at times too! Get more accurate verbatim transcripts and easily avoid mislabeling by having respondents raise their hands before interjecting so you could call their names clearly for the recording. Avoid just letting them chime in the discussion anytime they want and instead conduct it with utmost coordination. You can also thank them by name after their dialogue to make it even clearer.

4. Consider recording on video

If possible, you should also try to consider recording on video. More often than not, audio recordings will contain garbled noises, mishears, as well as indiscernible accents of the speakers, and specific jargon. Listening to the audio alone will not be enough, and can lead to errors in the market research transcription. An extra video recording will be able to strengthen the quality of the transcription. Transcribers will be able to lip read and double-check specific words or parts of the discussion so that they’ll come up with accurate outputs.

5. Check on your tools and equipment

It’s also best to check up on your tools and equipment, not just at the start of the focus group discussion, but throughout its entirety as well. You need to make sure that your pieces of equipment are functioning the way they’re supposed to be. Check your microphones or recorders, video cameras, laptops, or more. It’ll be a shame if the equipment is not working properly and you have no idea. Even more so if you’re already halfway through the discussion and the microphones or recorders are not picking up the audio clearly.


Poorly recorded focus groups are less likely to generate quality market research transcripts whether you transcribe them on your own or use any of the most expensive professional transcription services in the market. Get the best bang for the buck by properly recording your focus groups for useful, accurate transcripts perfect for analyzing insights and research findings.

TranscriptionWing offers a high quality verbatim transcription service perfect for getting every bit of information out of focus groups. Learn about our affordable transcription pricing here, or give us a call at +1-203-413-2414 and we’d be delighted to be of assistance!

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