If you’re a
qualitative researcher, the chances are you will be conducting interviews. This
means that at some point, all that lovely data will have to be transformed from
audio files into documents that you can annotate and analyse.
Of course, in an ideal world, we would all transcribe our own interviews as it does get us that step closer to the data. In the real world, however, researchers often don’t have time for this laborious job. If you’re trying to recruit participants and work on your analysis whilst also looking after a family and working in a part-time job, the thought of sitting hunched over Word and VLC for days at a time trying to work out whether a participant said ‘pathology’ or ‘potatoes’ might be enough to make you weep.
Well, fear not, because PGPR now offers transcription alongside proof-reading and feedback. In this blog, we’ll explain exactly what happens if you decide to use PGPR to transcribe your precious data.
send us your audio file
We use the secure service Tresorit to transfer files. Tresorit is based in Switzerland and is one of the most secure services of its kind. All files are encrypted at source and the company has no way of accessing documents you upload or send through their service. They take security and GDPR compliance seriously, meaning your precious data is safe. You can send files of up to 5GB in this way.
You upload your file to Tresorit and send it to us. We will ensure that the link gets to the team member who is transcribing your audio. They will then download the file.
we transcribe the data
Since our team members are either qualitative researchers themselves or are editors who specialise in working on qualitative pieces, we understand how important it is to get every word and line of your interview exactly right. If you want, we can include hesitations, repetitions, ums and ahs, laughter and sighs. We can also anonymise all identifying data, such as names or locations, as we work.
we check that our work is accurate
We always listen
to your interview twice over to ensure that our transcription is both accurate
four… we send the interview back to you
Once the transcript is ready, we will password protect it and email the document back to you. You will then receive a text message from Layla or Johanna telling you what the password for your interview is. In this way, we are ensuring security. We can send your work back within 24 hours, 48 hours or five working days from the time you sent it to us.
we delete your audio file
ensures that your confidential data doesn’t make it into the wrong hands.
If you’d like to use our transcription service, just get in touch via the form below, we’ll be happy to help.
ethics, recruited participants, collected your data, analysed and written up your
findings – phew! What a marathon. The hard work is basically over, right?
not, because there is one more hurdle to jump; the dreaded discussion section.
This is where
you compare your work to the existing literature. Sounds simple, but this can
be the hardest chapter to write. I have a theory (entirely untested, I should
point out) that these chapters are especially hard for women, who have
generally been socialised not to brag about their achievements, something you
definitely need to do here.
Read on for
six tips on how to leap over this final hurdle and write a devastating
1. Read around your findings
You will already have done plenty of reading for your lit review, but before you start writing, do some more, especially if you are doing qualitative work. In quantitative research, you shouldn’t discuss any papers you haven’t already bought up in your intro, but this is not the case for qualitative explorations, where the researcher will have been expecting the unexpected. Now that you have your unexpected findings, search for similar papers and make notes on the relevant points.
I find it helpful to start a new document listing each of my key findings, and to make notes of any existing findings which confirm, contradict or add to my own, along with a note of which paper the new findings have come from. Include the key findings from the key papers from your intro or lit review on this list as well. You might want to highlight findings which back yours up in one colour and those which don’t in another. This list document comes in really handy once you start to write.
Look for work from the same or similar methodologies to you, as well as work from other areas. Find and read papers that are cited in useful studies.
Top tip: if your university doesn’t have access to a paper you need, email the author, or look for them on ResearchGate or Twitter. They will probably be happy to share their work with you. (I am always happy to share my papers, just get in touch via the form below to ask.)
2. Think about format
The format of your discussion section should mirror that of your findings. This helps your reader to logically follow your train of thought; especially vital if your reader is a PhD examiner, for whom you want to make life as easy as possible.
Start with your first finding. Briefly recap it. A common problem I see with PGPR clients is that they spend too much time reminding the reader of findings. The findings chapter is the one before the discussion; try to trust that your work is interesting enough that the reader won’t have forgotten it already.
Here is an
example of a recap from a discussion section in my PhD, which was about the
experience of living with and being treated for renal failure:
Seven of the participants talked about the impact that
ill health made on their lives. Some found that ill health was a wearing
intrusion, dragging them down and restricting them. Others had found ways to
come to terms with living with their chronic conditions.
Following this, you might want write a brief summary of the existing literature, after which you can start comparing your work to what’s out there already.
3. Look for areas where your research confirms other findings
The next step is to demonstrate how your findings concur with existing work (if they do). This is where the list document you made earlier will come in useful. Look for findings that are similar to yours and tell the reader about those similarities. If you don’t have anything on your document which backs up your findings, have another look, just to be sure. However, don’t force similarities if they’re not there.
4. Look for areas where your research builds on existing work
This step is similar to the previous one but can be trickier. Your work might appear to contradict existing work. Novice researchers may panic that this means their findings are ‘wrong’. However, is there a reason your findings are different from Professor Big-Brain’s? Did you speak to different participants? Has the political climate shifted? Perhaps participants reacted differently to you – an Asian female – than to Professor Big-Brain – a white male. If further research would be beneficial, point that out.
your findings add a new dimension to a model or set of guidelines. If so,
clearly demonstrate this and give yourself a gold star.
You might have an entirely novel finding – something no-one has found before. Again, check the literature carefully so that you can be confident you’ve not missed anything, but if so, use clear language to tell your reader that you have found something new and important. Don’t be shy about this! These are the kinds of findings you might include in bullet points about ‘what this adds to existing research’ when you’re submitting papers for publication.
5. Think carefully about what your reader needs to know
PGPR clients’ discussion sections are often overly long. We don’t need every detail of the papers you’re comparing your work to. Consider your examiners or the reviewers of your paper as you write. These people tend to be overworked as it is – and reviewing/thesis examination is extra work which they have to fit into their busy day. Do they really need to know exactly how many people Dr Finickity interviewed, or do they just need to know what those participants experienced?
Here is another example from my PhD, demonstrating a succinct comparison:
Several participants talked about a loss of freedom via the restrictions placed on them by their illness, either in terms of being too fatigued to live life to the full, or in terms of more practical concerns such as diet restrictions. Authors of previous qualitative work on ill-health have found similar themes. The restricting impact of ill health in terms of both social life and diet spoken about by Charlotte is reflected in findings by King et al. (2002), in which dietary restrictions and ill health were both found to have a major impact on the diabetic renal patients.
6. Ask PGPR for feedback
Discussion sections are difficult – but the PGPR team has plenty of experience writing, marking and examining these chapters. We are happy to offer feedback on how to get your discussion chapter just right, so fill in the form below if you would like some extra support.
You have done a cutting-edge piece of qualitative research that is ripe for publishing… but your subject matter means that targeting traditional, quant-based journals makes more sense for your beloved paper. Do you know how to get your paper ready to submit to a potentially stats-favouring audience?
Lots of publications have quantitative researchers reviewing
qualitative work and you want to make sure that your reviewer has no doubts
about the value of your fabulous paper.
Fear not – here are some top tips on how to get your
methodology section looking ravishingly rigorous and ready for submission.
1. Check the journal’s conventions for qualitative research.
Many journals that accept qualitative papers have specific
conventions or guidelines for qualitative submissions.
There are also journals that do not accept qualitative papers (sad but true!), although
they don’t always let you know this. If you can’t find any specific conventions
for qualitative papers in the publication in question, have a look to see if
they have any lovely qual papers in their archives. If they don’t, it’s
probably a waste of your time to send your paper to this journal, so cut your
losses and move on to the next journal on your list.
2. Recognise and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the qualitative approach.
One sure-fire way to put off reviewers is to ignore the weaknesses of your approach. Of course, you want to emphasise why your approach is fantastic and perfect for addressing your research question (as well as why quantitative research is not suitable for your study). However, discussing the disadvantages will give strength to your argument.
3. Discuss validity and reliability.
One concern of quantitative researchers is that qualitative
research lacks validity and reliability. Emphasise the rigour of your approach,
4. Put all the right information in your methods section.
The structure of your methodology section will depend on your specific piece of research. Qualitative methods sections are not as cut and dried as quantitative methods sections. There are, however, some essential ingredients!
question: Be sure to clearly include this.
Design, methodology, approach and philosophy: Your theoretical assumptions need to be made explicit. Many researchers trained in quantitative methods are not aware of the philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research. Also, be mindful that approaches such as TA and IPA might need more explanation for quantitative researchers.
Researcher information: Also known as
reflexivity – ensure you talk about your background, its relevance to the study
Sample, recruitment and drop-outs: Quantitative reviewers can sometimes be put off by small sample sizes. If you have spoken to a small sample, or if any participants have dropped out, explain why.
Say what you did and why you did it. Make it relevant to your research
question. What do the reviewers need to know about the research setting? How
did you collect your data?
Ethics, including consent and confidentiality: Although ethical issues for quantitative and qualitative research can be similar, highlight any other issues, such as ongoing informed consent for case studies or additional means of protecting participant anonymity.
5. Make sure it looks top-notch!
Don’t give the reviewer any chance to get off on the wrong foot. Your references should be perfect and your paper needs to be free from mistakes. Need an eagle eye to check over your paper? The Post-Graduate Proof-Reader can help!
Are you a postgrad student with a comprehensive, beautifully written qualitative thesis? You know your research deserves to be read by a wider audience, but after looking at journal word lengths, you’ve realised you’ll need to cut your gorgeous study in half (or maybe even quarters) to be eligible for publication.
How on earth can this be done?
Don’t panic! This blog will outline five easy steps to help you cut your study down into a bite-sized, publishable piece without losing any of the nuance you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into.
1. Select a journal Think about audience, word-length and style
Before you even start thinking about making cuts to your precious study, the first thing to get straight is which journal you’re writing for. Who is your ideal audience? Do they have a key publication? If so, that could be the one for you. Run a quick search through your chosen journal’s archive to ensure they are open to qualitative publications; it will be a waste of your time and theirs to send your gorgeous IPA findings to a publication which only deals with stats.
Once you’ve found your ideal journal, search their website for their instructions for authors, and note down their word length and style guidelines. Some journals might ask for a certain number of pages rather than a word length. Most will have requirements for font, point size and spacing, which you will do well to adopt from the outset so you don’t get a nasty shock when it turns out you have to double space the article you’ve spent hours getting down to 30 single–spaced pages.
2. Re-read your study What are the novel points? What will be of particular interest to your chosen journal’s audience?
Once you’ve selected your ideal journal, go back and re-read your study. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to fit all the findings from a master’s or PhD study into one paper, so think about which findings are the most novel, or which will appeal most to the audience of your chosen publication.
3. Choose two to three themes Which would work as an individual paper?
You might have to make some big choices at this stage. Have you got five themes? Perhaps there will only be room in this paper to present two of those. Don’t worry – it could be that you could put the other three into a second paper for another audience. Maybe there’s just one theme that you feel is really hard-hitting. That’s fine too – you can pull that out of the study and present it alone.
4. Re-write your lit review and discussion Tailor these to your chosen themes
Once you’ve selected the theme/s you want to focus on for this paper, you’ll need to tailor the introduction, method and discussion sections to fit. Which papers from your lit review are relevant just for these fewer themes? Add a short section in your method explaining that you have (for example) selected two themes from a wider project, and explaining why you’ve chosen to do this. You might also want to include some recommendations and reflections towards the end of your discussion section.
5. Send your paper to the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader
Your study should be looking much more like a publishable paper now. It will be shorter and more tightly focused towards a specific audience. Congratulations! But… you may still be a little beyond that elusive word limit. Could you make your points more succinctly? Perhaps you don’t need all those limitations you’ve humbly included in your discussion section! Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is needed at this stage. Visit http://postgradproofreader.co.uk/ and I’ll be happy to help you get your piece down to the correct word length and help you share your fabulous research with the wider world.