Transcript of "How to Ensure Accuracy and Clarity in Focus Group Transcription"
How to Ensure Accuracy and Clarity in Focus Group Transcription
Focus group transcription involves transcription of audio/video files of focus
group discussions. Going by some considerations can ensure a clear and accurate
focus group transcript.
Focus group transcription involves the conversion of an audio/video recording of a focus
group session into a text file. The focus group session basically involves a group of people
discussing a particular topic or issue. The primary purpose of conducting a focus group is to
collect opinions, beliefs and attitudes of people about a specific topic or issue. The level of
interaction between group members is one of the important features of this research
method that differentiates it from the interview method.
Nothing can be more frustrating than moderating a really productive and informative
session and finding that your recording is unusable for transcription. A well organized
session would ensure accuracy and precision in documentation. So if you are planning to
conduct a discussion of this nature and need to submit documentation of it later, it is
necessary to consider several aspects to ensure accuracy and clarity in the text.
Transcription of a focus group discussion is a challenging task. With people talking over
each other and a variety of different voices and accents, transcribing will take a longer time
as you have to analyze exactly who is speaking. Going by some considerations can ensure
accuracy in the recordings, which in turn, will contribute to a quality transcript:
• Arrange a high-quality recording system – Make sure that you arrange a
good quality recording system with external microphones. Internal microphones
can be used only for dictation. These are typically designed to be held close to
the mouth for one person to record dictation. For a focus group session, one
external microphone needs to be arranged for each participant. A top quality
recording system will make documenting it easier and more affordable. Also,
before you begin a session check whether the recorder is recording as you can’t
make a transcription of a blank file.
• Select an independent room – The session should be conducted in a self-
contained room with no distractions. External noises can drastically reduce the
quality of recording, thus increasing the time to complete the transcription.
• Avoid serving refreshments during the session – If you are planning to
serve refreshments, do so either before or after the session. Eating while
speaking can obscure speech and affect the quality of the transcript.
• Identity of Speakers – If you don’t need to know who is speaking, the
transcriptionist just has to indicate when a new person speaks on the transcript.
This would cost less as the transcriptionist need not differentiate the various
voices in the recording. However, if you need the different speakers identified, it
is better not to include more than 5 to 8 people in the session unless their voices
are distinctive. So it’s important to consider in advance whether you require full
details on who's speaking at any particular time.
• Explain the ground rules of the focus group – At the beginning of the focus
group session, it is essential to clarify the ground rules of the discussion.
o Ask the participants if they do not mind being recorded for
transcription. Do this well in advance, and have a back-up plan or policy
ready if anyone objects.
o Remind participants not to talk over each other when they get excited
or angry during the in–depth discussion or heated arguments. This will be
problematic for the recording as transcribers cannot hear clearly what is being
said during the recording.
o Give all introductory information such as what is the purpose of the
research, why the discussion is being conducted and expectations from the
participants before you turn the recorder on. This will save recording time.
o If you want to know the identity of different speakers, ask each person
to introduce himself/herself. For instance, ask for details such as name, job,
and location as make it easier for transcriptionist to learn and identify the
Often, it is difficult to strike a perfect balance between obtaining all the information and
letting a true discussion develop. For example, if a focus group session involves a group
of company directors discussing about the latest government policy or group of
scientists evaluating a company’s new product, then you don’t need to continuously
interrupt to remind participants not to talk over each other. On the other hand, if the
main goal of your focus group session is market research, then it is important to obtain
opinions from a large number of people. In this case, a stricter moderation may be
required. Participants can be asked to say their name every time they begin to speak.
Sticking to a discussion plan can help you manage participants who go off track.
Help your Transcription Service Provider
Here are some things you can do to help the transcriptionist provide quality
• Prepare a list of the participants’ names (with correct spellings), gender, and all
other relevant information.
• Present this list to the transcriptionist along with names of the moderator and
any other person present who makes any comment during the focus group
• Decide and tell your transcriptionist about the type of focus group transcription
you require – whether verbatim or intelligent verbatim.
Choose a reliable and experienced transcription company that can deliver transcription
services to meet your documentation requirements.