Making Sense of a Qualitative Interview Transcript

So, the interviews or focus groups are completed and the transcripts are in. Now what?

Upon first glance, one can see there's often a lot of meat in a typical transcript. Tens of pages documenting a single interview may be at your disposal. Don't let it overwhelm you, though. There's bound to be great insights that stem from the content in these transcripts!

Before diving into the first page, take a moment to consider some of the following points to get the most out of your transcripts.

Making Sense of a Qualitative Interview Transcript

Worried about how to use those transcripts from your interviews? There are many strategies to analyze all that text both efficiently and effectively to result in actionable insights.

Navigation and Labeling

Knowing your way around a transcript document is a great first step to using it for research.

Take it from me, it's far too easy to waste time searching for specific information that you could find in seconds with the right plan of attack. Thankfully, there's ways to make your life easier when navigating the many pages of a transcript.

Clear distinction between the moderator and participant is critical. Especially when more than two individuals are involved such as a focus group transcript with potentially a dozen or more speakers.

Most transcription services won't leave any doubt as to whether the moderator or participant is speaking. Just be sure it's marked well enough as a reader when the conversation jumps to a new speaker.

Sometimes it also helpful to create labels in the transcript that define where sections start and finish. Perhaps the discussion guide for the interviewing had 5 main sections (Introduction, Current State of the Industry, Current Satisfaction, Concept Testing, Wrap-up). Creating breaks in the document for each new section could assist in all future reviews of the transcript.

Labels for the location of specific questions from the discussion guide can also save time. Instead of reading through entire sections, a search of the label immediately displays the desired question and answer.

When supporting quotes are needed for the report, try a quick scan of the document by pressing CRTL-F and searching key words. For example, a search for "convenient" may identify quotes that support a theme of convenience in what customer's like about a product.

Analysis and Organization

As someone who naturally thinks about research in a quantitative way, I've at times struggled with identifying the overarching ideas across several transcripts. Fortunately, there are several opportunities to quantify and organize the content of a transcript in many studies.

One such area is comparing questions across transcripts. I often prefer to create a spreadsheet with excerpts of answers to each question from the discussion guide.

After some initial copy and pasting, this creates a table that makes information from each transcript easy to digest. Trust me when I say this beats rotating between 20+ transcripts to look at responses to the same question.

With a comparison spreadsheet, themes become more clear. Similarities and differences can be more easily picked out between transcripts.

An important question to ask is if there are any participant segments or sub-groups that will play a role in the analysis. Perhaps there were questions asked during the recruitment screening process that captured the industry of the participant. Transcripts could then be analyzed and compared with regard to industry for another layer of insights.

Custom notes in a transcript are undeniably valuable, as well. Recording thoughts in the moment while reading through a transcript can make theme-building more successful.

Notes also give context and quick findings for people other than the author to absorb the transcript's content. I like to save my comments directly in the transcript to the side as a reminder for reporting.

Marking significant quotes is another way to show the highlights of a particular transcript. Quotes can be pulled to support key findings or represent main ideas that are identified in the final report.

Contact Our Qualitative Market Research Company

Drive Research is a qualitative market research company in NY. We are constantly managing qualitative studies that use transcripts in the analysis, interviews and focus groups alike.

Questions about conducting interviews or using transcripts? Contact us below.

Message us on our website
Email us at
Call us at 888-725-DATA
Text us at 315-303-2040

Focus Groups