Over the past few months, I have been knee-deep in interview data that I am using for two dissertation chapters. My data primarily takes the form of transcripts from interviews conducted in 2018 and 2019 which I analyze using the ATLAS.ti software. Each of these long transcripts was read multiple times during the initial process of coding passages and themes in the data. Even now, I continue to revisit these documents as I am writing, seeking to remember details of the context in which a quote was made or to re-read especially interesting passages as I think through an idea.
However, lately I have also been revisiting my audio data, the original material from which the transcripts were made through the painstaking effort of my Research Assistant. I often go back to these audio recordings of the interviews to check on a quotation that was unclear in the transcript or to re-listened to a passage that is important for a section of the paper. Re-listening to even a small snippet of audio immediately takes me back to the moment of the interview. The background noise, such as the roar of the crowds in the mall food court or the clink and whoosh of the espresso machine in the coffee shop, transports me to that exact place and time. I notice a smile coming across my face as I recognize the respondent’s voice – their unique cadence, accent, and manner of speech. I may even catch myself chuckling as I remember details of the interview including funny or surprising things that happened or were said. Re-listening to the interviews, I notice small things I had forgotten from the conversation – a strange way of phrasing something, defensiveness or agitation in their voice, a long pause, an authoritative tone.
When I begin to feel fatigued by the long slow process of research, I often return to these audio files to be re-energized and find new inspiration for the project. More importantly, re-listening renews my gratitude to the individuals who took the time to share a piece of their story with me.