Data collection is one of the most important aspects of research that requires a lot of effort and accuracy. There are a number of ways through which data can be collected and recorded from the field. For a long time, questionnaires have been very popular.
They have been used as a way of gathering and recording data from the field. However, technology has brought in better tools that can perform this task better. Blaxter (91) says that that emerging technologies have redefined the way data is recorded. New gadgets have been invented that have the capacity to record and store very large amounts of data.
Recording spoken data has therefore become very popular in the current research, especially in linguistics. Many researchers have found that recording spoken data is the most convenient way of maintaining originality in the primary data collected. In linguistics, it is possible that at times the respondent will not be in a position to respond to the questions in the desired language.
When such spoken data is to be recorded in a written form, it would force a researcher to translate the information into the desired language. The danger of this translation is that the data may lose its original meaning. There is a possibility that in the process of translating this data, a word or a phrase may be distorted hence rendering the whole data inaccurate.
When such data is recorded in its spoken form, it would maintain its coherence and this would help validate the final report. Moreover, when data is recorded in a spoken form, the researcher is able to draw more information by analyzing the tone of the respondent. The researcher would be in a position to discern such features as sarcasm in the voice hence control bias in the research.
Cohen (126) says that unlike the written form, recording spoken data provides a rich source for the analysis process, because besides the message it carries, the researcher is able to analyze the respondents and determine the suitability of the response given.
Increasing Relevance of Recording Spoken Data
Research has proven to be the key to solving most of the issue that bedevil our society. Many scholars have set forth to research on various issues with a view to coming up with solution to various issues. In this path, researchers have raised many concerns that hinder the process of gathering data.
One of the main concerns that have been raised is that some of the researchers are blind. These are individuals with the ability to conduct a meaningful research, but because they lack the sight, which is very vital in every single activity of human being, they find that it is practically impossible to conduct a research.
Emergence of tools like audio recorders has proven to be the solution to this problem. With this device, a researcher who lacks sight can easily use it to record information for later analysis. The researcher can later analyze this recorded data at his own pace, allowing him to replay the record to clarify an issue that he did not get properly. Moreover, it allows the researcher to conduct the research at a faster pace. Because of this, recording spoken data has gained popularity among the blind.
Greenfield (78) asserts that linguistics is a very rich field. For a researcher in this field, it is of importance to realize that there are numerous languages. In a small region, numerous languages that are so different in structure can exist. When data collection is done on a different language from the language used in data analysis, care should be taken to ensure that the process of translation do not change the meaning. This scholar gives an example of a possible distortion of a word or a phrase in the process of translation.
Among the Kelnjin of the Eastern Europe, the word tong’ means an egg. However, the word also means a spear. This scholar gives an example of the following sentences.
- Alex ong’ieo tong’ nikech enkech (Alex bought an egg since he was hungry). (Rasinger 8)
- Alex ong’ieo tong’ mar lueny (Alex bought a spear for war). (Rasinger, 8)
The two sentences are very different. The main issue is the purchase of this item referred to as tong’. In the first clauses of the sentences, the two words are very similar (Alex ong’ieo tong). It is therefore impossible to deduce which of the two items (spear or an egg) was bought. The meaning would only come in the second clauses. The second clause of the first sentence says nikech enkech (since he was hungry). We therefore overrule the possibility of spear because it cannot solve the problem of hunger.
However, another twist comes in this sentence. Just like in English language where anger and hunger have similar pronunciations, the words enkech and ankech, which means he is hungry, and he is enraged in Kelnjin language, have similar pronunciations. In a spoken form therefore, the word tong in the first sentence could as well mean spear, for an enraged man would need a spear for war, not an egg. Recording this data would call for a prolonged explanation by the respondent in order to make the meaning of the word clear.
Such complexities in language has made recording of spoken data more popular in linguistics. As Wilsen (87) observes, even a researcher who understands a language may risk misinterpretation in case an elaboration of a sentence with a word that is ambiguous is not done. A researcher recording data in a written form in the above-mentioned language risks making dangerous mistakes, say in the first sentence.
He may erroneously record that Alex bought a spear because he was enraged, while what the respondent meant was that Alex bought an egg because he was hungry. When analysis is done on such a data, the result would be completely irrelevant and the effect of this can be adverse.
If action is to be taken on the findings and recommendation of such a report, Alex may be put to task over an issue he completely do not understand.
Having realized this shortcoming of the written data, many researchers have fallen in love with recording spoken data the way it is. Many researchers currently prefer recording such spoken data the way it is for a later analysis. Because of the large storage capacity of the audio recorders, the scope of the research is always broadened.
The researcher would be in a position to probe the respondent more and get to the gist of the information. As Milroy (23) observes, recording spoken data is the modern way of recording data that researchers have come to embrace because it is not only a faster method of data collection, but also an efficient way of ensuring reliability and validity of the research.
Problems Associated with Recording Spoken Data
Although recording of spoken data has been lauded by many researchers as one of the best ways of data collection and storage, it comes with a number of challenges. Dornyei (46) says that the strongest points of this technique of data collection are its source of weakness.
This scholar points out one such advantage of this approach of data collection as the freedom it offers the researcher. This advantage comes with numerous challenges that can make a given process of research collect very irrelevant data. According to this scholar, linguistics as a discipline is very interesting.
Once an individual sets forth to conduct a given research in linguistics, chances are high that he would meet information that are very interesting but irrelevant to the topic at hand. If caution is not taken, such a researcher may get so involved in an irrelevant research that would not be of use. When analysis is to be done, such a researcher would come to the realization that the information he or she has is junk.
It would now demand that the researcher picks substance from the junk information, or even conduct another research. Wray (19) shares this opinion. He says that recording spoken data would demand a lot of discipline on the side of the researcher. The researcher would avoid being carried away by interesting but irrelevant information that is available in the field; otherwise, he or she would risk having data that is of no use.
Another challenge of recording spoken data is lack of specificity. When a respondent is not restricted in the answers he or she provides, there is danger of having data that is full of speculation, but limited in substance. Such a data would be difficult to analyze because it would be lacking the important explanation needed and instead provide unnecessary information.
Mason (110) says that unlike written research that uses pen and paper, recording spoken data uses electronic gadgets. The propensity of such electronic gadgets experiencing failure is much higher than experiencing a failure with a pen and a paper. Such failures may be due to power failures, complexity of the gadget or lack of expertise by the researcher.
Unlike a pen that can easily be replaced in case of a failure, some of these tools used in recording spoken data cannot be easily replaced and in case of a failure, the researcher would have no otherwise but to call off the interview.
This is very dangerous because at times a researcher may fail to get another appointment with the respondents who were to be interviewed at that particular time. Some of the recently invented audio recorders are so sophisticated that it would require a lot of time taken to understand its usage properly. This may take unnecessarily long time, which would have been used in the analysis process.
How to Minimize the Problems
Every research has its own challenges. Milroy (25) says that the most important aspect of a research is that the researcher should know how to handle his own ‘rats’. By this, this scholar means that in every research, there would be challenges. A researcher should be in a position to identify such challenges that are unique to his or her research and formulate custom-made solution on how to address such challenges.
Recording spoken data comes with a number of challenges as stated above. It is important that a researcher understands these challenges and define the best ways of mitigating them. This paper would discuss some of the general ways that the above-mentioned problems can be minimized if success were to be achieved in any given research that involves recording spoken data.
One of the main concerns raised about recording spoken data is the possibility of the researcher deviating from the main topic of the research.
This problem can be minimized by setting question to be responded to and allocating time to each question. It would also require discipline on the side of the researcher. Discipline in the essence that no question would be asked outside the field of study however interesting a researcher may find it.
The researcher should also be keen enough to detect if the respondent has deviated from the topic of concern, in which case, the researcher should kindly direct him or her back to the focus of the research. During the process of data analysis, the researcher should further scrutinize the response of given by the respondents by analyzing their tone and other audio features of the data to eliminate possibilities of bias in the research.
Another concern that may arise when using this method of data collection is the possibility of failure of the gadgets themselves. To minimize this challenge, it is required that a researcher should test and confirm that the gadget is in a good shape and can perform expected duty within the desirable duration. If possible, alternatives should be carried so that in case of failure, the research would continue using the alternative means that are available.
The issue of technicality of the gadgets can be addressed well before the research begins. When complex gadgets are used to collect data, it is important to ensure that the researcher develops a deep understanding of the gadget. The researcher should be aware of possible mechanical and electrical problems that can arise while using this gadget and the possible means of rectifying such errors.
Before a researcher sets forth to conduct a study, care should be taken about the tools to be used in the field. A researcher should avoid complex gadgets that may bring difficulty in data collection. As Dornyei (51) simply puts it, a researcher should avoid carrying any tools whose usage is still a dream to him or her.
Appropriateness of Recording Spoken Data as a Method of Data Collection
According to Rasinger (20), data collection process is a very important stage of a research. This scholar holds that data collection process must be handled with appropriate care to eliminate any possible error. An error that occurs at the analysis stage can easily be detected and rectified. However, if this error occurred at the field during data collection process, it might not be possible to detect it unless the researcher revisits the field again. Appropriateness of a method of data collection is therefore of great importance.
According to Milroy (42), recording spoken data is one of the most appropriate methods of collecting data in the modern research. The need for accountability in the researches has increased in the recent past. Every researcher has the responsibility of publishing report that he or she can substantiate. Such may call for certain actions to be taken on the item under the study. If these recommendations are taken, it is expected that the result would bear positive fruits as suggested in the report.
Recording spoken data has one main advantage of maintaining originality. The response is not changed and a researcher can reply such recorded tapes for clarity purposes.
As Dornyei (56) notes, a research that involves linguistics may find this approach very effective. As this scholar asserts, language is learnt by listening and speaking, and not be writing. At Chinese may take a lifetime learning to write French. However, he or she would never be in a position to speak the language unless he or she listens to a person speak the language and he or she makes an effort to speak it. When data collection is done using recording of the speech, this data can be very valuable in a class that learns that language.
Other than the results gotten from the analysis of this data, a researcher would find this data useful in making others understand the language. Listeners would be able to understand the dialect, emphasis on the words, phrases and clauses, and the entire sentence. Mason (115) further says that with the invention of data recording tools like video recorders with the ability to record audiovisuals, a researcher’s work is made easier.
During the process of data presentation, a researcher may use slides to show both the audio and the visual aspects of data to enhance clarity. In linguistics, users of such reports (especially students) would find the audiovisual data very important. With audio is accompanied by visuals, it becomes easier to understand a language for those who are beginners of the language.
This method is also appropriate because the modern data analysis tools support it. Spoken data can easily be stored in the computers and the responses assigned specific values. Computers have in-built formulas that can be generated to analyze this data as per the assigned values.
It eliminates the need for papers, which can be bulky and cumbersome to carry around. The ability to transfer this data directly into the computer from the device used in recording data (like video or audio recorders) saves the time that a researcher would have used to transfer this data manually into a computer.
For a long time, questionnaires were very popular in data collection. This was because it could be delivered to the respondents and be picked later, say after a week. However, the effectiveness of this method has significantly reduced due to the increasing commitments of people. Greenfield (82) reports that an emerging crop of individuals, who have the allure to work for over 110 hours a week, can utilize the tool well.
Such a person is left with approximately six hours in a day to sleep, eat, socialize and do all that is not related to his or her job. Such a person may not have time to go through a questionnaire. Recording of spoken data would be the most appropriate as it would take the least time of such heavily scheduled individuals.
Recording of spoken data is a relatively new method of collecting data from the field. The emergence of gadgets that are able to record sound has enabled modern day researcher collect data using this method. As is seen from the above discussion, recording spoken data has gained relevance, as many current researchers prefer it to the use of questionnaires.
This is because of some obvious advantages it has over other methods. One such advantage is that it maintains originality of the data. The respondents’ answers are taken the way they are without any paraphrasing or translation.
This further enhances reliability and validity of the research. This method is also time saving hence allows the researcher more time to conduct the analysis of the data. It is very appropriate among the linguistic researchers for the recorded data can be used directly to teach beginners of a particular language.
Although this method is very advantageous, it comes with a number of challenges. One such challenge is the high propensity of deviation from the topic in focus. A researcher can easily be carried away and deviate from the focus because the respondent is allowed to narrate the scenario.
The gadgets used in data collection may also fail, drawing the research into a halt. This can jeopardize the success of the research. Having realized this, researchers have come up with ways through which the above-mentioned shortfalls can be addressed. One such remedy is that the researcher should be disciplined enough to maintain focus on the issue at hand.
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