How To Properly Record Focus Groups for Transcriptions

October 8, 2021

How To Properly Record Focus Groups for Transcriptions

Market research transcriptions are essential to any qualitative research project. You need spotless, or at least workable, audio recordings for whatever general transcription services you’re using for high-quality transcripts.

While it’s tricky to record multiple respondent discussions, it is absolutely doable. Here are some 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 see if the participants themselves make the recording difficult to transcribe. Sometimes, they form “sub-meetings” or side conversations during the discussion.

Low-volume voices or whispers seem harmless to the recording, but they actually make the main dialogue tough to understand especially when many people are talking at the same time.

If you'll offer snacks and drinks to your respondents, make sure to allot a break time dedicated to letting them eat outside of the actual discussion. Be it just chips, biscuits, or coffee - the sound of wrappers and glasses can disrupt the quality of the audio.

2. Strategize the position of the recorder

The seating arrangement of the focus group is a major factor in the quality of the recording. How your respondents are seated around the table should tell you where to place the recorder so it can catch everyone’s voices clearly.

The size of the focus group can also affect recording quality. A group with only 4-6 participants is the ideal volume as they can sit closely in a circle, usually with 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 it's on. Hits and bumps on the mic can drown out people’s voices.

Avoid using mobile phone recorders at all costs. These are capable of close-up recording only, which is impractical for recording focus group discussions.

3. Respondent identification

It is difficult to label the names of large-scale focus group respondents, especially if some of them barely speak up. Sometimes, some of their voices can sound similar in the recording!

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 anytime they want and moderate the discussion to let each respondent speak in turn. A simple but effective way of identifying each respondent is thanking them by name after their dialogue to make it even clearer.

4. Consider recording on video

More often than not, audio recordings will contain garbled noises, mishears, indiscernible accents, and specific jargon. Listening to the audio alone may be insufficient, and can lead to errors in market research transcription.

Having a video recording can vastly improve the quality of the transcription. Transcribers will be able to lip-read and double-check specific parts of the discussion so that they can come up with accurate outputs.

5. Check 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. Keep a watchful eye over your equipment to make sure they're doing their job.

Check your microphones, recorders, video cameras, laptops, and other tools you'll be using. It'll be a shame if your recording device stops working - especially if you're already halfway through the discussion.

Poorly recorded focus groups are less likely to generate quality market research transcripts. in the market. Get the best bang for the buck by having a reliable transcription service to properly record your focus groups for useful, accurate transcripts that are perfect for analyzing insights and research findings.

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