Tips for quality recordings

GENERAL : Equipment

Prior to the Interview


  • Check your recording equipment carefully.
  •  If using battery-operated equipment, ensure batteries are new and that spares are available.
  •  Use new audio cassettes of the highest quality.
  •  If using micro cassettes do not record on the slow speed; this may cause stretching of the tape and affect the recording.


  •  Please make sure the equipment you have chosen to use, i.e. mobile phone, tablet, audio recording machine, have adequate charge for the length of your recording.
  •  If using an audio recording machine, please check that you have sufficient memory storage for your recording – [especially if it has been used for other recordings previously].


Interview Setting:

Modern microphones are very sensitive and will record everything in the background in addition to the voices of the recording.  When recording it is advantageous to bear the following in mind:

  • Try not to record outside because a slight breeze recorded will drown out the voices.
  • Avoid sitting close to computers, telephones, electric fans and other electrical appliances which interfere with the quality of recording.
  • Choose a seating position that is comfortable away from doors and windows to minimise external background noise.
  • Try to avoid public places, cafes, coffee shops, public houses, classrooms etc., as the background general noise can drown out the voices being recorded.


Start of the Interview

  1. Give interviews a little background of your research and the reason for interviewing them. 
  2. Reassure them that everything said will be confidential.
  3. Reassure them that their identity will be anonymised.
  4. Ask the interviewee to repeat or clarify anything that is unclear or inaudible.  Voices often become softer and mumbling when someone is saying something personal or particularly important.
  5. Try to avoid overlapping speech during the interview.



 Focus Groups and Meetings are very difficult to transcribe:

Certain groups of voices are difficult to differentiate, ie.,  young children, young females, and older males.  The older males tend to have a very low tone to their voice, and if not positioned fairly close to the microphone, it can be quite difficult to hear them clearly.

The main problem we face is that we are typing these ‘blind’.  The only time we hear the names of the participants is at the beginning of the recording, and sometimes if the recording is poor, we are unable to hear this, making continuity difficult. 


Positioning of people at focus groups is important.  If quietly spoken people, or mature males are the furthest away from the recorder, this results in sections of the transcript being either guessed or missed out completely.




 For these type of interviews it would be helpful if we could have:

  • A list of all participants and where they are from, especially if they have non UK, or strong regional accents.
  • A little bit about the project ie. deadline if papers are to be circulated before the next meeting.
  • A seating plan of the meeting. This helps if voices are similar.
  • If the person chairing the meeting, could mention individual’s names at various points during the meeting, ie. ‘Jane. Have you anything else to add?’ or ‘Thank you Alison’. etc., to help us with continuity.

The only way to ensure accuracy in identifying the speakers, is by asking each person to say their name before they begin to speak.  [Initially speakers feel a little uneasy about doing this, but experience has shown us,  they soon get into a rhythm!!]. 











Name:                                                Organisation                         Voice Sounds like


  1. [Chair person]











Group meeting