Log in / Register
Home arrow Environment arrow Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches

Recording Equipment

For simple recording and transcribing of interviews, in a language you understand well, you can get away with a basic audio recorder for under $50. (But buy two of them. When you skimp on equipment costs, and don’t have a spare, this almost guarantees that you’ll need one at the most inconvenient moment.) Basic recorders, with 256mb of flash memory hold about 150 hours of voice recording. You can also use your iPod as a digital audio recorder with a plug-in microphone. A gigabyte of disk space holds about 400 hours of voice recordings, so an 80-gigabyte iPod has plenty of room for both music and interviews.

Whatever kind of work you do, remember to upload your data regularly to a computer and to store your data in several places—CDs, external hard drives, or online. And if you are in an isolated field site and don’t have reliable power, take along a solar battery charger so you can get your data offline and onto a CD.

Some of the better voice recorders come with up to four built-in microphones that capture 360-degree sound. If you use a low-end recorder, then use a good, separate microphone. Some people like wearing a lavalier microphone—the kind you clip to a person’s lapel or shirt collar—but many people find them intrusive. I prefer omnidirectional microphones because they pick up voices from anywhere in a room. Sometimes, people get rolling on a topic and they want to get up and pace the room as they talk. Want to kill a really great interview? Tell somebody who’s on a roll to please sit down and speak directly into the mike. Good microphones come with stands that keep the head from resting on any surface, like a table. Surfaces pick up and introduce background noise into any recording. If you don’t have a really good stand for the mike, you can make one easily with some rubbery foam (the kind they use in making mattresses).

Test your recorder before every interview. And do the testing at home. There’s only one thing worse than a recorder that doesn’t run at all. It’s one that runs but doesn’t record. Then your informant is sure to say at the end of the interview: ‘‘Let’s run that back and see how it came out!’’ (Yes, that happened to me. But only once. And it needn’t happen to anyone who reads this.)

Pay attention to the battery indicator. Want another foolproof way to kill an exciting interview? Ask the informant to ‘‘please hold that thought’’ while you change batteries. When batteries get slightly low, throw them out or recharge them. If you are working in places that have unstable current, you’ll rely on batteries to ensure recording fidelity. Just make sure that you start out with fresh batteries for each interview. (You can save a lot of battery life by using house current for all playback, fast forward, and rewind operations— reserving the batteries only for recording.) If you prefer household current for recording, then carry along a couple of long extension cords so you have a choice of where to set up for the interview. (See Ives [1995] for more good tips.)

In voice activation mode, the recorder only turns off during long pauses—while an informant is thinking, for example. Holly Williams (personal communication) recommends not using the voice activation feature for interviews. She finds that the long breaks without any sound make transcribing easier. You don’t have to shut the machine off and turn it on as many times while you’re typing.

Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >
Business & Finance
Computer Science
Language & Literature
Political science