From Field Notes, to Transcripts, to Tape Recordings: Evolution or Combination?

Sophie Tessier


For researchers doing qualitative research, interviews are a commonly used method. Data collected through interviews can be recorded through field notes, transcripts, or tape recordings. In the literature, there is a debate regarding which of these recording methods should be used. There are issues of reliability, cost (time and money), loss of data, among others. Technology plays a pivotal role in this debate. Indeed, new technologies (e.g., direct coding) are often seen as potential replacements for older technologies (e.g., transcripts), which leads to a debate that is based on an evolution narrative (from field notes, to transcripts, to working from tape recordings). This article argues that a combination narrative should be considered where combination is better than substitution. Moreover, combining the advantages of field notes, transcripts, and working from tape recordings without accumulating each method’s disadvantages is possible because of new technology. To support this argument, two technological tools (OneNote and Smartpen) are presented as a way to increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and economy of qualitative data management.

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