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USING A VOICE RECORDER

Don’t rely on your memory in interviewing; use a voice recorder in all structured and semistructured interviews, except where people specifically ask you not to. If you sense some reluctance about the recorder, leave it on the table and don’t turn it on right away. Start the interview with chitchat and when things get warmed up, say something like ‘‘This is really interesting. I don’t want to trust my memory on something as important as this; do you mind if I record it?’’ Charles Kadushin (personal communication) hands people a microphone with a shut-off switch. Rarely, he says, do respondents actually use the switch, but giving people control over the interview shows that you take them very seriously.

Sometimes you’ll be recording an interview and things will be going along just fine and you’ll sense that a respondent is backing off from some sensitive topic. Just reach over to the recorder and ask the respondent if she or he would like you to turn it off. Harry Wolcott (1995:114) recommends leaving the recorder on, if possible, when the formal part of an interview ends. Even though you’ve finished, Wolcott points out, your respondent may have more to say.

 
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