Background: This paper assesses interviewee transcript review (ITR) as a technique for improving the rigour of interview-based, qualitative research. ITR is a process whereby interviewees are provided with verbatim transcripts of their interviews for the purposes of verifying accuracy, correcting errors or inaccuracies and providing clarifications. ITR, in various forms, is widely used among qualitative researchers, however there is limited methodological guidance on how it should be employed and little is known about its actual impact on the transcript, the data, the interviewee or the researcher.
Methods: ITR was incorporated into a qualitative research study in which 51 key informant interviews were conducted with a range of senior stakeholders within the Canadian health care system. The changes made by interviewees to their transcripts were systematically tracked and categorized using a set of mutually exclusive categories.
Results: The study found that ITR added little to the accuracy of the transcript and may create complications if the goal of the researcher is to produce a transcript which reflects precisely what was said at the time of the interview. The advantages of ITR are that it allows interviewees the opportunity to edit or clarify information provided in the original interview, with many interviewees providing corrections, clarifications, and in some cases, adding new material to their transcripts. There are also potential disadvantages, such as a bias created by inconsistent data sources or the loss of data when an interviewee chooses to remove valuable material. The impact of ITR on the interviewee may be both positive and negative, depending on the specific circumstances and the nature of the study. The impact of ITR on the researcher was minimal in this study, but is again subject to specific circumstances of the research context.
Conclusion: While ITR is employed by many researchers across numerous fields, the advantages of its use may be relatively small in terms of verifying the accuracy of qualitative interview transcripts. Researchers are advised to carefully consider both the potential advantages and disadvantages of ITR outlined in this paper before deciding to incorporate the practice within their qualitative study designs.