Phone Interviews for Dissertations – Setting Up, Recording, and Transcribing the Interviews

interviews for dissertation

Writing a dissertation is a major undertaking for any academic. The amount of related literature to review, wrestling with no-nonsense advisers and making something worth having your name on can take several hundred hours of work. One way to make it a bit easier is to swap in-person interviews with phone interviews. They are easy to set-up, cuts down on the footwork, and most importantly, they’re easy to create records of.

Recordator was designed to work especially well for academics. Aside from call recordings, Recordator also has an adjacent transcription service that makes it easy to turn conversations into transcripts. With a simple click, you can have written records of your online convos.

In Research Methods in Anthropology, academic H Russel Bernard notes that the phone interview has become one of the most popular modalities of surveying in research. But while picking up the phone and asking questions sounds very straightforward, there are ways you can make your phone interviews more manageable and productive.

Setting up your Interview

Before dialing up a contact, there are steps to take to minimize the need for follow-up calls. Here’s a handy guide:

  1. Schedule Beforehand – Experts are busy and a phone interview can last for well over an hour. When setting up a call, don’t forget to tell your interviewer to set aside at least an hour of their time. Also, stick to your schedule; it’s not ideal to ask your interviewees to reschedule; they’re already granting you a favor.
  2. Prepare well – Read about your subject, prepare clear questions and be sure about the information you want to get from the interview. While unstructured interviews are more casual, going into a phone interview without questions may result in less usable data.
  3. Always record – It’s a no-brainer. Technology like Recordator makes it super easy to set-up calls. After you end the conversation, an mp3 file will show up in the cloud for download. Notes are great but nothing is as reliable and easy to review than an actual recording. You won’t miss a thing.
  4. Transcribe when you can – A dissertation is still text; interviews on paper are easier to review and format. At Recordator, you can get machine transcriptions of your call recordings with a single click. Machine generated transcriptions are highly cost-effective and can save you a lot of time in case you end up with tens of hours of recordings.

To Quote or to Paraphrase?

After the interview is done, integrating it to your thesis and dissertation is a process in itself. There are two main methods: quoting and paraphrasing.

Quoting is lifting the exact same words from the subject and putting them in the dissertation. This is great because this preserves the integrity of the interviewer; in no way is the spoken word modified. While this can come across as “more truthful”, using too many quotes can seem lazy.

Paraphrasing is changing the words and structure but preserving the gist. This allows the interviewer’s ideas to be integrated organically into the writing in contrast to quotes which can stick out from paragraphs. Paraphrase to summarize the points of the interviewee and to corroborate them with other literature.

A Versatile Tool

Phone interviews can be done to get much-needed information from subject matter experts, on-the-scene sources, and or through surveys. Interviews can be surprising and insightful, especially versus asking interviewees to fill out forms or correspond via email.

Through tools like Recordator, the applicability of phone interviews for use in dissertation or thesis-writing and academic research is higher than ever. With the right preparation, a telephone interview can be integral in successful data and information-gathering.


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