Speech to text to thesis

Transcribing interviews. I’ve been doing a lot of it. Quickly managed to move beyond hating the sound of my own voice. Fascinating picking up on things I didn’t ‘hear’ when face-to-face.

 

I’ve only spoken with articulate, well-educated professionals, but it’s still tough accurately transferring speech into the written word when nobody actually talks in nice neat distinct sentences! (I’m reminded of this when I read transcripts of Trump speeches/interviews: he speaks as well as an orange perched on a jelly, so I feel sorry for anyone transcribing him – they must worry their transcript makes their work look shoddy)

 

I’m excited about this part of my research. It helps me see where my ‘original contribution to knowledge’ might stem from. I’ve still got a reading list a mile long. I’ve still got tiny notes-to-self in draft chapters that will actually be HOURS of research or reading or whatever. I read someone else’s brilliant thesis recently and sank into my chair realising how very far I have to go. But I will get there. I’m feeling motivated by all the patterns emerging and information acquired from these recorded chats with passionate people.

 

Transcription is also quite a good task to do in the spaces between children and crippling tiredness. An hour in the evening. Using headphones on the train. After a broken night’s sleep and a very early start when nothing on the day’s To Do list looks realistic as I just can’t focus. Sit and listen and type it up for a while – feel instantly productive – plus the added bonus of re-hearing the conversation and getting ideas for chapters, sub-chapters, sections, and where it might all fit together.

 

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Getting it done

My best start to a week recently was a Monday when the baby was napping in the pram in the hall, my eldest was watching children’s TV in some kind of post-Christmas haze, and I sketched out a couple of conference proposal abstracts on my laptop, sitting on the sofa. I felt pleased to be snatching time where I could.

I had a couple of ‘lost’ work days before Christmas, very frustratingly. The baby was too ill to attend his two days of nursery, so I looked after him, and then the following week – long after I was sure I’d escaped catching the same illness – I was struck down! So even though both kids could go to nursery, I was too ill to do anything remotely productive on those days.

Over the last few weeks I’ve variously worked on the sofa in the evenings, at the dining table when the kids are out at nursery, in my parents’ home office (a very short walk from our house since we moved!) when the kids are being looked after by someone else at home (usually their dad, of course, but sometimes their gran), on trains to and from London, at the university library, and in a cafe.

I’ve been reading and writing and staring blankly and feeling inspired and on top of things and then equally massively overwhelmed and as if I’m at the bottom of a very large mountain. I am aiming to get all my research done by June. I have more interviews lined up soon. Always plenty to read and re-read. Lots of different documents open with different draft chapters and sub-chapters. A good start to the year so far, but still so much ahead.

 

PhD, Babies(!), and Me – can it be done?

Okay, it was a little ambitious to plan to start the PhD again when Baby #2 was just 9 months old. I’d envisioned it would be fine, as Baby #1 was only 11 months old when I’d started in the first place, way back in 2013. I’d be a more experienced parent, I’d be more familiar with the PhD workload. The PhD in the first place was the light at the end of the tunnel of my first maternity leave. But of course having two children instead of one is rather a leap, and maybe those two months in age make a bigger difference than I’d realised.

I hadn’t countenanced having such a poor sleeper after a relatively good sleeper first time round. Baby #2 waking up at least twice a night until very recently (he is now 11 months old and waking either once or not til morning – major breakthrough!). I’m on my own with both children overnight most of the week now. On a good morning the kids wake as late as 06.30, but usually Baby #2 is awake by 05.45 these days. One way of coping for me is having early nights, which after tidying round once the kids are in bed leaves me with no discernible evenings to get any work done. It’s tiring. Enough to make me miserable sometimes. It’s usually okay, but leaves me feeling like I’m mostly muddling through.

Why did I think I could carry on full time? 

I panicked after my first supervision meeting after maternity leave. It didn’t sound to them as if I would be working ‘full time’.

But I had been super optimistic because I have more formal and informal childcare than ever! 

For the first couple of years, with only one child, we used a combination of: a flexible workhub nursery, babysitting swap, my partner’s flexible working arrangements, weekends, and family visits to ensure I had time to work on my PhD. It was a bit piecemeal, but I am well-organised and we made it work! It wasn’t conventional, but I got my work done.

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The complication of having two children – rather obviously – is that they both need to be elsewhere while I am studying. Child #1 attended our local state school nursery in London during my maternity leave (free to us as it was covered by the government’s universal education grant for over 3s). This was three hours a day, 5 days a week, term-time only. In practice, those three hours every morning became more like two hours when factoring in drop-off and pick-up. If I had not had Baby #2, those measly two hours a day might have been useful time. Especially coupled with evenings, weekends, and every other Friday when my partner is around.

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But finding a realistic solution for childcare needed to ensure Baby #2 was also out of the picture at the same time. I’d tried using naptimes first time round and, while they are a good bonus, they shouldn’t be relied upon because that way lies frustration! The logistics of where to put Baby #2 if using the same school nursery for the eldest became silly to think about – should the baby be at another childcare setting nearby, or maybe both children should go to one nursery or childminder?

The thing is, we were living in south-west London. A friend where we lived has two children the same age as ours who attend a private nursery, three days a week. Cost: £1600 per month. That’s another full wage. That’s paying out the month’s rent (if not more) again. For part time childcare. That’s unimaginable to anyone living elsewhere in the UK.

So one of the reasons we have moved cities is to find affordable childcare that works for us. We did our research as we knew already where we wanted to live, so we were happy enough to get on the waiting list for the nursery a few months in advance. Two days a week for the baby, three shorter days a week for the eldest (a term-time only class, mostly using the 15 hour education grant). Family on hand for occasional pick ups and wraparound care. Weekends and partner taking annual leave and flexi-time days off as before.

Copenhagen station, early morning

Copenhagen station, early morning

It has been a couple of months now since that first supervision meeting and I’ve been finding my feet. I am still studying full time. I’m working out what I can do when in this new set-up: when is best for reading, writing, transcribing, emailing… all those different tasks. I am happy that I am still on track, albeit knowing that there will be flexibility in the schedule in future if needs be. I’ve even had another trip to Denmark since restarting, which coincided with cutting down on breastfeeding the baby. Practical and physical considerations!

It’s tough having setbacks when there’s a gap in childcare – for instance, when the baby is too ill to attend nursery, or school term holidays when the eldest is not at nursery. But there are unexpected bonuses too: I’ve been able to use my occasional train commute to London to do work (1 and a half hours of uninterrupted reading or transcribing, for instance) unlike previous commutes to uni which were on buses and tubes and often with the child most of the way, so complete ‘dead time’ in terms of productivity!

Nearly at the end of the calendar year, Baby #2 is not far off turning one. Feeling positive.

Students and wifework – how a nanny got me thinking about what I do all day

I’m not sure of the best place to write this up, but I wanted to for posterity.

For four weeks in May this year, we had a student nanny living with us! It was a residential placement midway through her 3 year degree in Super Nannying, at no cost to us. The purpose was for her to have an extended period settling with a family, and I hope she learnt things from her time with us. She certainly slotted in really well to our family life and I learnt a few things, too. At the start of the placement Baby #2 was 4 months old. By the end of her stay, he was 5 months old – crawling already (!!!) – and, during the period of her stay, I feel we transitioned out of the newborn fuzziness stage to a more fully formed Family Of Four.

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Wifework (ie. how many people it takes to run a household without anyone burning out!)

During the nanny’s stay, family life ran very smoothly. No one seemed worn out. Meals were planned at the start of the week which resulted in the whole week being clearly planned – in order to plan meals, we needed to know who was eating together and whether anyone would be out. The three year old was a delight as she had the full attention of another adult who was happy to potter around fulfilling her whims (reading, crafting, playing in the garden).

Wifework could just as easily be husbandwork except I’m the one on maternity leave, and even before and after that I am the “more-at-home” parent, and and and arguably still mostly falls to women in a conventional heterosexual household set-up regardless of who is working outside the home (the term was coined by author Susan Maushart). Wifework is shorthand for the tasks undertaken (usually by women) to keep a house ticking over, including but not limited to the laundry, the washing up, cooking, cleaning, tidying, grocery shopping, life admin like paying bills and posting letters, and – primarily, and destructively to the aforementioned chores – childcare (umbrella term for entertaining, feeding, cleaning the little ‘uns – a job in itself, if our temporary resident’s degree and future career is anything to go by!). Some of these activities can be combined with the essential overriding activity of childcare, that is, conducted with the “help” of small children at the expense of completing it promptly. For instance, cooking the evening meal: the nanny learnt on one extreme occasion that when enlisting the help of a three year old, it’s not a bad idea to start around 4pm to get tea on the table for 6pm!

Importantly, however, while the nanny took on the bulk of these tasks relating to the children, it did not mean my time was entirely my own. I was unable to delegate breastfeeding the baby, doing mine and my partner’s laundry, household admin, online shopping… but I was able to fit all this in around more pleasant “downtime” that I rarely get, such as reading blogs and magazines and just having a daytime lie down. Similarly, the nanny was able to prioritise the children’s needs for 11 hours a day and then have a full night’s sleep all on her own. As it’s her job, she gets the psychological bonus of knowing she is off duty at the end of the long working day. I am never off duty, which adds to the mental exhaustion.

The result was two adults at home keeping on top of things but not feeling burnt out. A third adult who came home from ten hours at the office to a relaxed, tidy household and almost none of his usual household chores left to complete. Then came the realisation of how much I actually do every day, even with a very involved partner who does the eldest’s bedtime routine and certainly doesn’t expect his tea on the table or clean clothes in his drawer (but is lucky enough to get that anyway!). All these activities take physical and mental effort and precious time. The fact this blog post took me until mid July to sit down and finish is certainly example enough. All these tasks combined with my many overnight wake ups, no wonder I still feel so tired!

 

What to do on maternity leave from a PhD

I still feel utterly resentful that my former employer asked me for a lengthy work-related phone call 8 weeks after the birth of my first baby. In the fug of first time parenthood and sleep deprivation I felt obliged, but now it seems downright rude. So this time round I went into maternity leave determined to have a “clean break” and only float around the peripheries of the world of my PhD. But as it has turned out, it’s hard to break free! Not only because of the connected world we live in – Facebook and Twitter constantly updating me about literature, events, and so on, such is the nature of the people I follow – but also because, rather predictably, it’s impossible to simply switch off thinking about my thesis, especially as I am so used to fitting it around one baby anyway. Crucially, as it turns out, I don’t mind dipping in here and there!

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Baby 2 is now 16 weeks old. Baby 1 is three-and-a-half (so she keeps telling me). PhD gubbins I’ve completed in the last few weeks:

  • co-organising an event in Denmark for literary translators – i.e. liaising with the host-translator about speakers, programme, attendees, publicity, etc, and, rather importantly, submitting a funding application to cover all expenses
  • maintaining my role as coordinator for the online network of literary translators – for example, adding new members and passing on contact details to enable a meet-up during London Book Fair
  • keeping in the loop as a member of the organising committee for a day conference later this year in London (the conference takes place after I resume my studies)
  • sharing specific data about Danish publications in English following a request from my funders (simple enough to copy/paste that section of an existing spreadsheet)
  • final edits of my first chapter for publication following editors’ feedback – the chapter is based on my presentation at a conference early last year, and I submitted it late last year.

The latter was the hardest of all to make time for, as I had to really use my grey matter! Rather a challenge on poor-quality broken sleep. Firstly, I read the editors’ comments and suggestions for changes when I first received the email, to give me an idea of how long it would take, and also give me a chance to mull things over. Then I chose a clear weekend day when I knew my partner could take both children. I fed baby after lunch before he took both out to the park in the afternoon. It rained which curtailed their time out of the house, but thanks to him keeping both kids occupied upon their return, I was still able to complete my edits. A small complication owing to my fickle document editor meant that to finally submit my completed chapter, I had to use some time that evening (after Child 1 was asleep) on a different laptop to make final changes before sending it off!

I don’t intend to make a habit of dipping in to my PhD-related work over the next few months, but I thought it would be interesting to record what I have done.

Mat pay hooray

Now a few days into my maternity leave (or ‘interruption of study’ as the official university terminology would have it). I couldn’t quite picture reaching this point after planning it all those months ago after first finding out I was certainly pregnant. Starting leave at 37 weeks (full term) makes sense to me as I went into labour at 38 and a half weeks first time round. So now a waiting game has kicked off!

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I’ve had some fantastic support at university when planning my maternity leave from my supervision team and others. Inevitably I came across some typically opaque university bureaucracy and the attitude that this had literally never happened before, ever, but my primary supervisor in particular faced it head on and chased through email chains with 6 or so people cc’d (really!) to get to the bottom of whether I could access any maternity pay.

PhD students are currently in a grey area – generally in the UK, we are not employees. We are full-time students. (So we are not technically unemployed either.) Of course, there are general positives to being a student – NUS discounts, reduced council tax bill depending on your living arrangements, reduced train/tube fares, and so on – but naturally we cannot and do not claim any low income or unemployment benefits. So, because I am not entitled to claim these ‘gateway’ welfare benefits, I cannot claim Maternity Allowance. Likewise, as I am not employed, I’m not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. These are the two types of government-provided maternity payments which currently both stand at the same rate of around £138 per week. But full-time students (at least, those who have not been employed separately on teaching contracts over a certain number of hours per week) generally fall into a grey area where they are entitled to neither (Guardian article about this recently here: Should PhD students be classed as employees?)

My studentship is a new type provided by the university (rather than a research body with its own established policies such as AHRC, for example), and eventually after the aforementioned to-ing and fro-ing it was established that the university would and should follow Research Council guidelines for its own PhD studentships such as mine. I would be given 6 months maternity pay at the same rate as my studentship, and go on to receive the remainder of my studentship funds as planned when I return to my studies late next year. A fantastic result! Especially after my initial fear that I would be receiving no funds at all for 9-10 months! I am grateful to my supervisor who went out of her way to chase this up. Then, once my entitlement to maternity pay had been established, an administrator in my school did his job brilliantly to ensure various elements lined up on the finance computer systems so my studentship was allocated corrected and maternity pay programmed to be paid at particular times.

I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for the time and money I’ll be getting during the turbulent period of new babyhood. I can’t imagine living and studying in a country like the USA where this wouldn’t be an option. It’s stressful enough anticipating the lack of sleep, getting to grips with feeding, and all the other tough stuff of the first time round, but with the added element of a growing pre-school age child in the family too!

Pregnant PhD-ing

Following on from my positive mindset post of a few weeks ago…

I’m now 32 weeks pregnant (i.e. 8 months). Now more convinced based on experience that attempting a PhD while pregnant is harder than “just” being a PhD parent. I started my PhD studies when my baby was around 11 months old, and that presented its challenges as I – or rather, we, as a family – worked out how to fit in studying, parenting, everything. Now she is a strapping toddler who demands a lot of brain-exertion (answering “whyyy?” countless times a day). As previously mentioned, the start of this pregnancy was the usual sickness/nausea/tiredness which floored me. That lasted until around week 20 of pregnancy. Our paid-for childcare arrangement is a 45 minute average commute away, which I now reluctantly admit is more-and-more physically exhausting for me. I am bad at studying in the evenings at the best of times – I’ve always known that about myself – but now after a day combining commute, reading, writing, toddler wrangling, I’m just too shattered to do much at all after 6pm. I’m proud of myself I manage to prepare our evening meal! On top of it all I’m sleeping poorly as it’s physically uncomfy what with the mega bump and achy hips and waking in the night to wee (yeah yeah, tmi), and then unlike the first time round we have a small child waking us up before 7am so recovering sleep in the mornings is not an option!

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It’s hard to remember the first time round (when I was pregnant with the now-toddler), but I was working in an office job so had better control over my workload and therefore my mental and physical exertion. People keep telling me to take it easy, but it’s impossible when the majority of my time is actually spent looking after a very active small child. A friend of mine in a comparable situation (pregnant with a toddler) points out that her child is in nursery 8 hours a day, so she is able to take it easy, and I should cut myself more slack. But I go stir-crazy if I stay in the house with the kid all day, and we don’t have a car, so I inevitably end up walking or taking a bus to a playgroup, friend’s house, or playground to keep her entertained. It would be more mentally tiring not too. So combined with the occasional commute to childcare, physically I am certainly not “taking it easy”.

It’s been 5 weeks since my last supervision meeting. I am working on a specific chapter and wish I had more to show for it. I don’t know where the time has gone. I know I spent one nursery/workhub session shattered from lack of sleep and trying to recharge by mooching online and then round the shops. Not proud of that. I’ve even been into uni and to the library a few times. I’ve certainly done some reading. I finished a separate chapter/article to submit for publication – a conference paper of sorts – which took longer than expected. Unfortunately for my PhD, I have also completed other “nesting” tasks including writing a to do list of what we need to get before Baby #2 (not much, mostly a mattress and a cot) and buying Christmas presents for family (due date is Christmas so I wanted to be ahead of the game!). It’s not a lack of motivation – I’m very keen to get this chapter done before I take maternity leave – it’s just everything’s taken even longer than before (with “just” a child to took after) as my body does its thing and grows another baby.

Brand Scandi spotting – an occasional series (no.2)

Following on from Brand Scandi – an occasional series (part 1).

I find it interesting to spot products clearly stylised around the Scandinavian/Nordic “brand”.

Here is a Nordic-themed stationery range at Paperchase (spotted September 2015). It seems to be borrowing heavily from Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. The main consistent image seems to be bears – there are bear-printed gloves, plates, hot water bottle covers, etc. Bears aren’t so common in Denmark so I think in this case ‘Nordic’ refers to the far, far North (hints of Sami/Lapland in some of the patterns, perhaps?), maybe even Greenland. Lots of references to the outdoors too with the leaf patterns and subheading “into the wild”. Notice it’s called Nordic Nights – a nod to Nordic Noir and related dark imagery no doubt.

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I’m keen on looking at the history of people’s perception of Denmark and Danishness in the UK. Commodities and their perceived high quality – think bacon and butter – are regularly occurring positive ‘memes’. Here is Lidl imitating Lurpak, for example:

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In doing so, Lidl is using the positive associations consumers have with Lurpak to sell its own product. I particularly like the name “Danpak” – a blatant appropriation of the Danish butter brand which actually alludes to its Danishness even more than the original brand’s name. Lidl sells all over Europe, so it seems Denmark’s good reputation for butter stretches farther than just with British consumers.

I’ll keep an eye out for more Scandi style stuff!

24 Weeks and a Positive Mindset

Throughout the PhD process there are various significant time markers: the end of first month, a few months in talking about your first proper written work in a supervision meeting, the Upgrade, attending and presenting at your first conference, and the end of the 3 full years’ of funding will be one too – gulp! When I started, my daughter (‘the baby’ of this blog’s title) was just under a year old. She is now approaching 3 (latterly renamed ‘the toddler’!).

The big reveal...

The big reveal…

I am pregnant. 24 weeks – over halfway to baby 2! My life has been temporarily overwhelmed by nausea accompanied by occasional puking from week 6 to week 19. Three months. This has been less than fun. And, of course, exhausting. It has really hampered my own (perceived?) progress with my work, too. But some positives about what I have achieved while feeling so physically crap…

While I’ve been pregnant, I have been to Denmark twice (once for a research trip as described in my last post, and once to observe part of the inaugural literary translators’ summer school). In August I presented at a conference in Sweden on Nordic Literature – my first international conference.

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I have also presented at a university departmental research day, attended literary translation workshops and related events on a single day at the British Library, taught a university ‘widening participation’ session for year 8 school pupils on translation and Danish culture, attended supervision meetings with both supervisors having also prepared written work in advance, met with other students to chat studies and plans, done even more corpus research (I keep dipping in and finding more books!), and written a full draft chapter to be submitted for a conference publication this Autumn. This week I’m participating in a conference on small nation literatures in Bristol.

While I’ve been pregnant, we have successfully toilet trained the toddler (actually, she needed very little ‘training’, thankfully!), discussed plans for Tooting Baby with its founder/owner (I’m the web admin keeping content up-to-date), stayed with my parents in my hometown for a couple of weeks, planned birthday parties for me and my daughter in the Autumn, planned maternity leave dates and related antenatal and postnatal minutiae, and met with friends and kept up with general life stuff while trying to fit in sleep, puking, and PhD-ing!

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I’m out of the worst of the fug of early pregnancy now, resulting in renewed energy and motivation – whoop! – but unfortunately the scary realisation that I only have three months left before maternity leave and a To Do list expanding with my bump!

How I obtained some great data after creating a lot more work for myself

I have been very lax at updating this year. I would apologise, but I’m essentially writing this blog for myself, so I’ve only myself to be disappointed by. Anyway, on with the rest…

After my Upgrade, I started planning how to embark on some actual tailored original research. I planned I would need a research trip to Denmark to visit the national State Archives to see what I could uncover there about the decisions made by a key state agency – the Danish Arts Foundation – around the grants offered for translators (and perhaps authors). I discussed my plans with a contact at the Arts Foundation who suggested I meet with some of the key decision-makers themselves and interview them about their work. What an opportunity! The meetings were scheduled for the end of April. But then came the paperwork, and this dull but nonetheless important facet of the project is what I’m documenting here. NB for any newcomers: This is all obviously applicable in the UK (where my research is based and therefore where my ethics approval requirements had to be met) but data protection, copyright law, etc differ slightly around the world.

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Copenhagen in late April – my ‘commute’

My university – as all universities, I imagine – requires Ethics Approval for any research involving human participants. This could mean submitting a full ethics application for something as seemingly simple as a face-to-face survey of students on campus, or even perhaps any (non-anonymous) online questionnaires, as well as all the obvious scenarios that come to mind involving medical trials or sociological experiments.

So now I intended that my research would involve interviewing in person, one-on-one (or in fact one-on-many in one case). I intended to record the interviews using a digital audio recorder. Potentially a straightforward case, but I still had to complete and submit the ethics application form correctly and gain official approval from the chair of the university’s research ethics committee before embarking on any interviews. My ethics application form had to be approved and signed by my lead supervisor and Head of Department. My lead supervisor also had to use the university’s system to undergo a risk assessment. As part of the application I had to ensure I had appropriate information sheets and consent forms for the interviewees, and this was the part that took the most research to get right, but ultimately ensured I understood why the ethics application was an important part of the process. Incidentally, as you can imagine, this process took much longer than I initially anticipated, probably a few weeks or so piecing everything together!

Interesting aspects I had to work out:

Data protection

Data protection is to protect individual’s privacy; their right to a private life. That’s the privacy of the person being interviewed, but also of anyone else being discussed. To start off, I had to register my project with the university’s Data Protection Officer (an online process) and assure them that my audio files would be backed up to the university’s secure servers as soon as practical, and deleted from recording devices asap. It’s crap data protection if any ol’ person can find and listen to the raw recordings.

My plan was to interview people about their job role in their workplace, which on the surface should not present any data protection issues – after all, information about their job title etc is in the public domain, and we would not need to discuss personal or confidential matters. On the consent forms, I covered myself with the following statement, which demonstrates the reading up and subsequent thought process I had to go through when considering data protection (however in hindsight, it probably should have been slightly extended to explicitly cover ‘any personal data about you or anybody else‘):

Data will be held about the your name, job title, professional contact details, and the place and time of the interview. Interviews will be about the your work and therefore no personal data will be intentionally recorded, for instance I will not request information about your age, ethnicity, sexuality, and personal contact details. If any such personal data is inadvertently discussed during the interview, I will ensure it remains confidential by omitting it from the final report, unless I gain express permission from you to submit the full unedited transcript in my final report.

In the event, there was only one very minor occasion during the five interviews where I will have to adhere to this statement, and it makes for an interesting demonstration of why this stuff is important. In idle conversation towards the end of the meeting, the interviewer and I were chatting about {a person} and how we established that {the person} had probably lived in {a country} for a while on the basis that {the person} had had {a child or children} in {that country}. This part of the interview I will simply omit from the eventual transcript as it is not directly relevant for my research nor is it appropriate to to include such personal information when that person was not in the room to consent to this information being shared. Of course, this is only the kind of personal information that would naturally be shared all the time in conversation between two colleagues (e.g. me and the interviewee), but things get complicated once it’s recorded, and it’s not okay to reproduce this kind of conjecture about someone’s personal or family life, even if you think that the subject of discussion probably wouldn’t mind one jot! In addition, the more I think about this issue, I (and others, I’m sure) have concluded that it’s better to simply redact anything that might be considered personal information as it is risky, not to mention unfair to those involved, to break data protection protocol. Heck, even my heavily redacted statement up there makes me nervous as it is borderline identifiable in my opinion – it is near impossible to ensure anonymity in the very small field in which I am studying!

Copyright

Again, a line on my consent forms does the talking here:

Copyright of the audio recording and eventual written transcript is jointly held between the interviewer and interviewee. In this case the researcher kindly requests that the interviewee agrees to transfer copyright to the researcher in order that the recording and transcript can be used for other related purposes, for instance academic journal articles or conference presentations. You can request to be consulted on every occasion this material is used outside the remit of this PhD research project, and the researcher will endeavour to do this.

Copyright is an important consideration as a researcher. I plan to transcribe most of the interviews for my PhD thesis, so I could have just gained consent to use the material for this purpose alone. But perhaps I’d also like to submit them in whole or part as part of journal articles or even book chapters. I don’t actually know yet, but I do know that if I hadn’t got express permission – a transfer of copyright, no less – from the interviewee at the time of interview, it would have been a hell of a lot more complicated to use the material in any other form in a year or so’s time. Maybe I’d even have to contact them again back-and-forth for some sort of permission, which looks less than professional and risks them overthinking it and withdrawing consent. My last line was to cover this kind of hesitation or reluctance (of which there was none, but you never can tell beforehand); no one has opted to be kept informed so far.

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Gaining consent in practice

I presented the information sheets and consent forms to interviewees at the start of our meeting. The participants kept the information sheet and one copy of the consent form for themselves; I have a signed and dated copy of the consent form from every person I recorded. None of the participants sat and read through both sheets word-for-word, but all had a skimread and broadly understood the purpose of the consent form – I explained it was necessary because I was recording the interview. Everyone was speaking to me in a professional capacity and they had already received information via email about the purpose and scope of the meeting, so really it wasn’t necessary for them to read all the information in depth as they consented by agreeing to attend the meeting, and as conversation got warmed up we always got round to discussing my research project and the purpose of this specific research trip anyway. I’m not trying to deflect accusations that ‘no one reads these things anyway before signing’ (because they did albeit briefly!), but it is just to reflect that it was a necessary formality that did not stilt the conversation – in fact, it provided a useful opener for me to discuss what was about to happen and make switching on the recording device a little less awkward – and it provided me with paperwork that ensures I can use the data in a different form in future, beyond the boundaries of my thesis.

Not me, but another Nelle living a parallel life in Odense

Not me, but another Nelle living a parallel life in Odense…