Recording an interview so that the speakers are clearly audible can be trickier than it seems, but by following these few simple steps you can make sure you’re producing good quality audio recordings for your qualitative research right away.
High quality audio has many benefits. Most importantly, you will avoid losing any valuable information from the interviewee. But for purposes of transcription, the quality of the audio is crucial. Interviews with decent audio are cheaper to transcribe and can be completed more quickly, meaning you save valuable money and time for your research project.
This is a handful of simple tips on recording an audio interview that you can use today.
1. Reduce background noise
It may seem obvious, but background noise is the number one cause of poor audio quality. It isn’t always possible to conduct interviews in a quiet place, but taking simple steps to reduce background noise can have a huge impact on the result.
Try to avoid public places such as cafés or parks. If possible, a private space such as the interviewee’s house, a booked meeting space or your office, is ideal.
Think about potential sources of background noise, even if it seems quiet now. There may be no traffic on the road outside right now, but if a truck goes past at the wrong moment you may lose something crucial. So think about closing any windows.
Closely survey your environment, as even seemingly minor background noises can become a problem. The fridge in the next room may be barely audible, but when the compressor kicks in halfway through the interview it may become a big problem. Can you close a door or unplug an appliance to avoid this kind of issue?
Your audio transcription service will be grateful!
2. Limit speakers talking over each other
For some types of interview, the more conversational the tone, the more an interviewee opens up. However, this can lead to the second most common issue for audio quality – speakers talking over one-another. The more casual the tone of the interview, the bigger an issue this is likely to be.
Each research project is different, so it is up to the researcher to decide how best to strike the balance here. However, there are some simple things you can do to reduce this problem. It can be helpful to explain this to interviewees at the start, and remind them if it becomes overly chatty.
You may choose to employ non-verbal language, such as nods and gestures. In certain situations, it can even be useful to employ a rule, such as only the person holding a certain object can speak.
You will never eliminate people speaking over each other, but taking simple steps to limit this issue can have a huge impact on the quality of your interview recording.
3. Placement of recording device
Whatever device you’re recording on, placement is key. Make sure you put the recorder in a place where it can pick up clearly both the interviewer and any interviewees. It’s usually worth doing a short test recording before you start the interview, to make sure everyone can be heard clearly.
Again, be mindful of potential noises when placing the Dictaphone. A glass desk may seem sensible, but if a nearby phone vibrates or an interviewee taps the desktop, that small sounds can be like an earthquake on your audio recording.
4. Upgrade your equipment
This is at the end of the list because, quite simply, there’s no point splashing out on expensive kit if you haven’t first tried the above tips. It may be that, when you take steps to limit interference, your iPhone or tablet produces decent enough audio for your purposes. Great!
If not, only then do you want to invest in better equipment. We are currently writing a guide for buying a digital audio recorder, but the simplest advice is to ask yourself: what will I use it for? There is no point spending extra on a Dictaphone with long battery life if you are just conducting short interviews in your office.
These are simple and easy to implement tips on how to record an audio interview which is clear and audible.
This will not only help you get the most from your qualitative research, but can also make life easier for your academic transcription service – saving you both time and money.
Do you have any other tips to improve the quality of interview recordings? Let us know in the comments.
TypeOlogy is an academic transcription service based in the UK.