- It gives me a record of the session
- It helps me with analysis as I can either have it transcribed or listen back to it multiple times
- I don’t need to take notes as I go along, and can concentrate on the conversation
Great for me! But sometimes respondents can be a bit wary of the Big Brotheryness of it all, or anxious that they may be being covertly recorded, or worried that a recording of them speaking might fall into the wrong hands.
As a professional researcher I take this very seriously, and making a recording naturally has ethical considerations attached to it. I need to ensure that I gain consent from the respondent to record what they say, and the data I am generating (the recorded file) needs to be used and stored appropriately and securely.
When I conduct in-depth interviews I always do so with the aid of an interview schedule, which is a list of questions to guide each conversation. After a briefing from my client, I prepare a bullet-point list of questions and prompts running to one or two pages in length. Following this document ensures I ask everything that I need to ask to meet my client’s needs.
This is our internal document, for me and my client.
Before I speak to them I give respondents a broad overview of what they can expect from the interview. For example, I might say:
I am evaluating Project Fish, which will involve me talking to people that took part in the project about their experiences of how it went and the difference it made, if any. The conversations should take about half an hour.
That’s all I typically say. But a few times of late, my clients have asked me to show respondents a copy of my interview questions in advance.
This isn’t standard protocol.
So I did!
I sat up at the Nursery filling in the form on my lap, and as I went through it my market researcher alarm kicked in.
The form asked me to select my son’s ethnicity. Fair enough, of course it did. I have written extensively on the subject of ethnicity questions and why they are so long and complicated.
But this wasn’t a straightforward question. There were two options that could apply, and it was clearly stated that I should select one only.
Paralysed with indecision, I was.
I have my ways of finding out what competitive tenders are out there, and when I first worked for myself I bid for anything and everything. I’m well qualified and well able to do a wide range of research consultancy projects but through trial and error I found that I was winning certain work and not winning other work. Over time I worked out where I was most likely to succeed – the methodologies, subject matters, scale and fee, and even the area of the country. I worked out my niche, and I decided to only bid for work that fell into my niche.
And it works. I still win as much work, if not more.
And I’m spending less time writing proposals.
That’s the hard part.
Last Autumn I was called up to do jury duty for the first time. In many ways I was quite excited. I had taken some law courses at University (‘Criminology’ and ‘Punishment and Society’) so I had a bit of an academic interest, plus I am a nosy person so I like to know more about things and the world. I would have loved to sit on a Jury and would have taken the whole thing very seriously, and I’m told the lawyers and the people on trial appreciate having a jury there and in particular jurors that take it seriously. This is about real people’s lives after all and that should not be downplayed. I also understand that there needs to be a selection process so that a fair and representative jury is chosen for each trial. I would have felt that I had done my bit if I’d turned up but my name had not been called.
Essentially what I did in any of those four jobs is exactly the same as what I do now. But when you are acting ‘as’ an organisation you are never really ‘I’. The client doesn’t engage you, they engage the organisation you work for. You are the organisation you work for. You represent them, for good or for bad. The organisation gets the credit for your success and would take the hit on any failures. You are disposable. If you are sick or you quit or you mess up they might take you off a project and seamlessly replace you with someone else. Your work is never really your own. You won’t see your own name on any report that you write. It is never about you.