What Counts as Qualitative Rigour?

In a recent Advanced Nvivo workshop I attended, we got onto the topic of directly coding multimedia without working off transcripts.

Our facilitator stated that he strongly discouraged this and would not supervise  a PhD student who thought this approach was valid– when asked why he stated because it lacks rigour and said, well, if your supervisor thinks that’s ok, fair enough, but if one of my doctorate students proposed this, I’d say ‘bye bye‘.

This shocked me a bit- really? A whole PhD not rigourous cause of direct multimedia coding?

And secondy, woah- this is exactly what I’m proposing to do with part of my interviews.

Purely from a pragmatic point of view: hours of video not yet transcribed,  important stuff in there, no way I’ve got time to transcribe it now.

Ok, so in retrospect this is my own fault – I really wanted to video my interviews- so we (myself + co-researcher +husband as videographer) did one hour of interview sitting down and this easy enough to place the mini-disc recorder under a seat/on a table/next to the interviewee. But once we started walking around farms- it was waaay to much to juggle the tape recorder and focus on what the farmer was saying. So after attempting to do this on the first interview, we re-grouped and decided the 2nd half of the interview (i.e. farm tour) would just be video -recorded.

Of course, this is where all the juicy bits of the interview came out – get a farmer out onto their land and they just open up in a way not possible sitting down. Plus, they’d already spent a few hours with us by this stage, so our level of rapport and mutual confidence had arisen. Plus, the questions I asked were probably much more natural.

Problem: I didn’t know how to rip audio from HD video to send to transcriber. In fact, this fact totally slipped me till I got the transcripts back and realised -doh – many of the important bits were on the video.

By this stage, I was back in Australia, I had no research money left and the good bits of my interviews are on HD video.

After all the talk about how great Nvivo is working with multimedia- I decided I’d just code direct to the video.

Back to the start: this will not provide rigour to your research.

What do you think? Have you encountered a similar problem working with multimedia. Does your supervisors insist on transcripts?




About Sarina Kilham

I'm a Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney. Trained as a social scientist and with a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, I'm interested in farmer's experiences of growing feedstock for biodiesel production. My research has focused on biodiesel production in Brazil and Timor-Leste. Also on Twitter @sarinakilham and blogging at thequalitativeresearcher.net
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