When to edit translated quotes in qualitative research

Qualitative research often includes interviews, with quotes from interviewees usually included as part of the analysis. However, transcribing quotes, and editing them, can be difficult because interviewees rarely speak in complete, fully grammatical sentences. Interviewees do not want to appear unfairly inarticulate, poorly educated or illiterate when their quotes are transcribed.

It is particularly difficult when quotes are translated from another language, as the translation depends on the language skills of several people: the interviewer-researcher, interviewee and transcriber.

Just as decisions are made in quantitative research about statistical analysis and how to report it, careful decisions are also needed about quotes in qualitative research.

Editing decisions include whether and how to:

  • edit filler words and phrases such as ahs and ums, which can show an interviewee’s thought processes or confidence
  • edit casual language
  • edit pauses and interruptions
  • punctuate long, rambling sentence fragments
  • indicate deleted or edited text.

Decisions on how and what to edit can be guided by:

  • Purpose: Why has a specific quote been chosen to be highlighted? What is it intended to illustrate?
  • Context: What is the context around the quote? What was said before and after? Quotes extracted from a long transcript without context can be misleading and extra information may be required.
  • Length: How long is the section of quote?

Purpose, context and length can all guide editing decisions, but if a translated quote appears in different places, it should be consistent.

Text books on qualitative and cross-cultural research methods can provide guidance on interviews, translation, transcription and using quotes.

For advice on editing quotes, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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