Focus Group Transcripts

MAXQDA offers a variety of functions for the analysis of focus groups and group interviews. To use these analytical tools, it is necessary to import transcripts with multiple speakers using the focus group import function. If you are transcribing a focus group interview in MAXQDA or if you have already imported a transcript, you can also convert the text into a focus group transcript later. When importing a focus group transcript or converting a text into a focus group transcript, all speech contributions are coded with the respective speaker name, which makes it easy to differentiate between individual speakers in the analysis.

To import a focus group transcript to MAXQDA, select Focus Group Transcripts in the Import tab and choose your transcript format from the drop-down menu. Linking the focus group transcript to an audio or video file and working with time stamps works just like importing a regular transcript.

Import focus group transcripts

During import, MAXQDA automatically generates one code in the code system for each participant in the focus group and automatically codes all of a participant’s contributions with their code for later analysis and differentiation. To ensure that this automatic import process runs smoothly, MAXQDA places the following requirements on the structure of the transcript:

  • Each contribution begins in a new paragraph. At the beginning of each contribution the name of the participant appears, followed by a colon. Using bold type or special fonts for the names will not affect the import process, however upper and lowercase will be taken into account. Names like “Lisa B.” or “Gábor” with spaces and special characters are not a problem when importing. The subsequent text will be coded with the names of the speakers, up to the point where the next speaker is indicated.
  • MAXQDA will tolerate a space that is accidentally set before a name or in front of a colon and treats the associated names to be identical.
  • The names of the speakers that appear before the colon can be a maximum of 63 characters in length.
  • Sections of text at the beginning of the transcript (in which no colon occurs within 63 characters) will not be coded. This provides the opportunity for you to include a title and general information about the focus group for easy recognition.
  • Timestamps originating from the transcription software F4 or F5 will be treated as usual: MAXQDA will ask if you wish to associate the corresponding audio/video file with the transcript. The timestamps will be integrated into the MAXQDA project and removed from the text.

Let’s take the following interview with multiple speakers as an example:

Moderator: Hello everyone, thank you very much for your participation! This study examines how the balance of work and leisure time affects the general feeling of happiness. I have invited you to this interview because you all have a part-time job in addition to your studies. I would be very interested in hearing how you are doing in your studies and in your job. First of all, I would like to ask you why you decided to work while studying. Maybe we can go around the room; if you have any comments in the meantime, feel free to chime in.

Olga: Well, I started working because I wanted to gain work experience but by now it’s mainly because I need money.

Fatima: Yes, I didn’t really have a choice either. I have to work alongside university because otherwise I can’t afford to study. I have to support myself financially.

Andy: It’s the same for me. For financial reasons and also to not be dependent on my parents.

Pranav: Yes, for me that’s also the case. I need money to pay rent and to make ends meet. And at the same time, in my industry you need a certain amount of work experience or let’s say, it’s not bad to have some work experience when you graduate.

Moderator: Was it also that professional experience… did that also play a role? You mentioned this already, Pranav- what do the others think?

Andi: Yes, work experience- I think… in any case internships always look good on your CV, especially in the social sciences, in political science, internships are incredibly important in those fields, if you can manage to land some, of course.

After selecting Import > Focus group Transcripts and choosing a file, an import dialog opens in MAXQDA. This import dialog shows all identified speakers in your transcript and allows you to select which of the recognized speakers should be coded and with which name.

Import dialog

In the import dialog, you can directly assign a code color to the speakers. Furthermore, you can combine several different spellings for the same person in one speaker. This can, e.g., be useful if a name of one participant in the transcript contains typing errors. In the column “Target”, select the correct name of a speaker if you identify a misspelled name in the “Speaker” column.

Tip: When importing the transcript you should check the names of the speakers for typographical errors. This will avoid frustration later, in the case that the same person appears twice under different names because the name was written or spelled differently. Since the speaker code cannot be deleted, you would have to make the appropriate modifications in a word processing program and then import the transcript again.

Following a successful import, MAXQDA opens the transcript immediately in the “Document Browser”, and from the coding stripes in the margin you can see that the speech contributions have already been coded. During the import MAXQDA creates a new document in the “Document System” with the filename of the transcript. This document has its own symbol, which allows you to immediately recognize that it relates to a focus group. Below the document, the speakers of are listed individually, with the number at the end of the line indicating the number of contributions. The speakers are attached to their transcripts. If you move the document, the speakers will move with it. Only the order of speakers can be adjusted with the mouse. Like other documents, focus groups documents can be assigned to a document group or set.

MAXQDA view after importing a focus group transcript

In the “Code System” you will see a very similar listing: At the bottom, a code with the name of the imported data will appear, with the speakers listed as subcodes, and the same  symbol as in the “Document System”. Speaker codes and the speakers in the document are connected: If you change the order of the speakers or their names in the “Code System”, their order will also change in the “Document System”, and vice versa. This also applies when a focus group transcript is deleted: if you remove a transcript from the “Document System”, the corresponding code and its subcodes will be deleted from the “Code System”.

Tip: Tip: You can choose to place focus group speaker codes at the top of your code system, in the “Code System” window settings. To open the settings, click on the gear wheel in the “Code System” toolbar.

The fact that the speakers are available both in the “Document System” and in the “Code System” opens up extensive possibilities for the analysis, as the speakers can be activated as independent codes and as document subsets. More information: Analyzing Focus Group Data.

When you import multiple transcripts, a unique code will be assigned to each focus group along with subcodes for the respective speakers. The speaker codes are firmly attached to their top-level code, and their order can be modified only under this top-level code.

Tip: The automatic coding function for speakers may be useful for other types of documents in which multiple individuals interact, for example forum discussions or comments on YouTube videos.

Converting an already existing text into a focus group transcript

Convert text to focus group transcript

Sometimes you realize that it would have been better to import a text as a focus group transcript into MAXQDA after you have already imported and coded it as a normal text document. Or you have transcribed an interview with several participants in MAXQDA and would like to code all of the speakers and their contributions automatically. In both cases you can use the function Convert Text to Focus Group Transcript, which is available in the Import tab. You can either convert the currently displayed document in the “Document Browser” or you can activate (several) documents you want to convert and choose Convert Activated Document(s). The same dialog as for importing focus group documents appears and MAXQDA will insert a copy of the text as a focus group document:

  • The speakers contributions will be coded automatically and corresponding codes for each speaker will be created in the “Code System” window.
  • MAXQDA will copy all existing coding information and memos into the newly created document, also the variable values and the summaries.
  • A linked media file will be linked to the new document, too.
  • The links in or on the document will not be transferred.

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