Killer Quotes from Research Respondents
One way you can make a research report really pop is to carefully select and edit quotes from the people involved in the study. For qualitative research, that means pulling quotes from transcripts of in-depth interviews, focus groups, online bulletin boards, social media, etc. For survey research, it means pulling quotes from open-ended questions that were recorded verbatim.
Editing is key, however. Who wants to read something in the halting, choppy, in-eloquent speech that most of us use in talking? A killer quote is one that is short, direct, pithy, and on point. Achieving this requires a journalistic standard for presenting quotes. What does that mean? Here are some steps:
- Transform the long run-on streams of words into sentences
- Remove the um’s, ah’s, like’s, you-know’s and other verbal fillers
- Cut out false starts and small tangents that do not contribute to intent of the sentence
- Do not change the words they use, or the order in which they use them
The goal is to focus on the intent and meaning of what they were saying. Then clean it up so that it says exactly what they meant, and really did say. As a check, imagine going back to your respondent a few minutes after they spoke and asking “Here’s what I’ve written down as what you said. Is this right?” If they would likely agree, then you’ve got it.
Here is an example from a project we completed this week:
Before: From what I’ve, you know, I’ve understood, that with Acme it’s very easy and very easy to navigate. That’s what the differences are between the companies is how easy it is to get in there and actually find what you’re looking for, and from what I’m . . . my feedback I’ve gotten about Acme, is that it is very easy and people feel comfortable getting in there and going through the process online.
After: From what I’ve understood, Acme is very easy to navigate. That’s the difference between companies: How easy it is to get in there and actually find what you are looking for. That’s the feedback I’ve gotten about Acme.
If you are curious about whether our “journalistic standard” is appropriate, here’s a fascinating radio story that ran several years ago, which NPR re-ran this week in memory of John Solomon, the reporter who wrote it.
Radio interviews, it turns out, are similarly edited. And according to NPR, they have never had a person interviewed on their show complain about how they were edited.
Need help grabbing your audience and telling a compelling research story? Give us a call. We focus on the rigors of research, and then turning data into stories so that your research gets heard and used, and so that it really makes a difference.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.