Should we include audio extracts in publications?

I’m listening to a really interesting talk by Paul Hopkins at the University of Hull about the use of multimedia as part of the PhD thesis. Surprisingly it seems this isn’t disallowed at many institutions even though it’s far from encouraged. Have you used multimedia as part of your thesis?

The broader question this talk has left me with is whether extracts of audio files could be included in publications more generally? As Paul points out, listening to an extract from an audio file is not equivalent to reading a transcription of that extract. There are many reasons why this might not be a good idea but I’m fascinated by the potential implications of this in an intellectual context where writing about qualitative research is dominated by what Nick Hopwood calls quotitis:

Look at your findings / discussion section. How much is indented as quotes from raw data? How much is “quoting the delicious phrases of your participants” within a sentence? It would be daft of me to give a fixed proportion to limit this, so I’m not going to. Do you give multiple exemplars to illustrate the same theme? Look at the text around the quotes. Have you given yourself (word) space to introduce quotes appropriately, and to comment on them in detail?

What do you think? I can’t work out if I actually think this is a good idea but it’s certainly a provocative one. In spite of the potential problems, the idea of drawing on research data to produce multi-modal publications in the spirit of a curatorial sociology rather appeals to me. I returned to my audio files in the later stages of writing up my thesis, long after I’d initially transcribed them, finding myself surprised by how effective this proved in changing how I was orientated towards my research data. What effects would it have on journal readers if we replaced the block indented quotations that characterise quotitis with snippets of the original interview?

Categories: Sociological Craft

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  1. I sometimes use audio comments when I’m marking essays. Audio files could be fantastic in qualitative research where the author is trying to demonstrate to the reader how they have faithfully captured the interview dialogue, or where transcribed format does not capture (or only poorly relates) tone and awkward silences. If researchers’ voices were edited in, too, then the reader/listener can really begin to make their own judgements about how ‘reliably’ the authors have interpreted the encounter, and something of the power relationship between the interviewer and participant. Audio makes research participants more recognisable, though, as some people’s voices are unmistakable. This is probably the main reason its not already being widely done..?

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