Honey, I shrunk the report! | myTranscriptionplace Blog

Honey, I shrunk the report!

Jun 20, 2024, Ushma Kapadia
Flashback to roughly two decades ago, when researchers used to wait until manual transcripts came in hand, to begin data-analysis and arrive at insights. Client debriefs during fieldwork were in-the-moment brain-storming sessions, basis memory-snippets of what consumers had mentioned during the FGD/ In-depth interview. 

Race ahead to now, when insight-generation could be somewhat ‘hands-off’. This change is driven by clients demanding insights faster, sometimes even ‘on-the-go’ toplines. Thanks to Note-taking apps like OneNote, EverNote, Notepad, Smart Notes; today, there is a growing segment of researchers who consider Field Notes the first port-of-call for data-capture. 

There are several advantages to the habit of taking Field Notes: 

  • Field-notes provide high-level ‘talking points’ to the note-taker, when discussing learnings with other stakeholders. This eliminates the need to wait for full transcripts to come in. In large, strategic research studies; this is a distinct advantage; since it allows the researcher to make on-the-go changes to the research instrument; thus improving data-collection. 
  • Note-takers can filter down the data on-the-go, by noting down what they absolutely need. This makes their data-recording focused and purposeful. For instance, an Account Planner attending an Ad Test would typically want to know what in the communication worked/ did not work. Notes pertaining to this topic is all that’s required, to pass on to Production teams, to consider tweaks required in the ad. 
  • Field Notes are almost ‘real-time’, which makes them immediately usable. This is particularly advantageous during market-visits, where on-the-go observations are much-valued. Market-visits typically involve team-meetings, where learnings from the visits done are collated on a daily basis. Ready-at-hand notes can help make such meetings more productive. 
  • When organized well, Field-notes serve as a memory-aid. This is especially useful when conducting multiple, short interactions in a single day. For instance, remembering what happened during 10 consumer visits in a day, what was common/ different across all interactions; is prone to manual error. Instead, note-taking helps take some of the ambiguity away. 
  • Communication platforms like Zoom provide in-built automated transcripts; which can serve as Field notes. These are reasonably accurate and can serve the purpose. 

There are several situations where Field Notes could suffice. Yet, there are other circumstances, where Field Notes may be inadequate:

  • Field Notes, at times, are simply ‘data-collection minus context’. Sometimes, notes jump straight to Insight, rather than massaging data and then arriving at Contextual Insights. A well-moderated consumer interaction typically provides a lot of contextual data, which goes a long way, in the analysis stage. This contextual data is missed out, if analysis is done basis Field Notes, instead of transcripts. For instance, a consumer might have spent a long amount of time articulating her pain-point/ need (this is where the insight lies!), even before discussing the product/ service being tested.
  • Another fundamental issue with note-taking is that it relies heavily on the note-taker’s writing-style. Some of us write short sentences to summarize our observation, basis what has been said. Others note down only consumer verbatims alone. Yet others translate consumer speak into Marketing lingo while taking notes. This means there is no single, accurate interpretation of various people reading the notes. Instead, a transcript provides a single-window understanding of what was said during the interaction.
  • Typically, insight-generation for large Qualitative studies requires reading through reams of data, sitting back, taking a zoomed-out view, spotting similarities and differences among segments. All of this is better achieved through Content Analysis of transcripts. Content Analysis from soft-copy transcripts can be organized, annotated, highlighted, archived to analyse differences/ commonalities by demographic and usership variables (gender/ aware non-triers/ heavy users etc.)… all to serve the researcher’s need. Yes, all of this can be achieved while doing Content Analysis from field notes. However, field notes are a data-extract, not raw-data itself. With Field-notes, there is the risk of data loss. Moreover, since field-notes are an extract, they are likely to lack the richness that comes with knowing how a question was asked and how it was responded to. 
  • Transcripts are a permanent archive of data captured. This makes them shareable across stakeholders – both internal and external.  

Both, field notes and transcripts are usable means of data-capture. So then, the question is – “When do I use which?”. Here’s a simple, 3-T’s framework to help decide:

  • Target Audience – who am I recording the data for/ with?  
  1. For personal consumption, Field Notes can help trigger insight-generation; without having to rely on Memory. Since the data-capture is for personal consumption, one can even custom-build a note-taking template and follow it, to record individual interactions. 
  2. When recording data with younger audiences like kids, teens etc.; Transcripts would be a better option. These are audiences that need to be fully engaged in conversation with the researcher; which might not leave enough bandwidth for researcher to multi-task as a moderator and note-taker. 
  • Time & Place – where and when am I recording the data?  
  1. When on Field, researchers are faced with unexpected scenarios eg. Small rooms, Ambient noise, Busy households. In such situations, note-taking becomes a challenging activity – you might simply not find space/ privacy enough, to manage digital/ manual note-taking.
  • Tactical or Strategic – what is the data going to ultimately be used for? 
  1. Field notes serve well for tactical, quick turnaround, yes/no studies; with simple target-group descriptions. Eg. A ‘go-no go’ Ad Test among 25-35 year old male bike-owners in Mumbai. 
  2. Transcription is better suited for repeatable studies involving large-scale, complex research designs that are spread across multiple locations. 

ResTech platforms have kept abreast of researcher needs from transcription. With speech-to-text and native speaker capabilities across 63+ languages and 70 countries, myTranscriptionPlace provides fast, accurate and affordable human-generated transcription services that honor both intent and context, when processing language inputs. At myTranscripitonplace, we offer report-ready Qualitative data analysis/ Content Analysis at prices similar to note-taking. We provide transcripts, Data-sorting in Excel and second level analysis as outputs… all within 3 days.  

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