Cringing at my own voice: The Ethnographic Method of In-depth Interview

Of all the tasks I have to perform that are related to revising my research project into a journal article, it is revisiting the interview recording that I find most tedious. I always find ways to do something else that are nonetheless related to writing and push listening to the recording to the very last. Of course, I always find something to do and the day will eventually pass that I have not listened to the any of the recordings.

Tedious though as it is, I have a full Grasp of the importance of meticulously studying and revisiting the primary sources from which evidences are drawn that will strengthen the argument the article holds. In ethnographic works, the words of the respondents from the community being studied is the beating heart of the project. As Wendy Belcher puts it: ‘you must engage with the original literature at a deep level; there are no shortcuts’ (2009: 142).

Listening to the recordings of the interview I have conducted during my ethnographic research is tedious not because the narratives of the respondents are boring, but on the contrary. The stories they have provided and the ways in which these stories are framed are not only fascinating but also quite useful in making the article’s argument. My research project, and as such, also the article I am revising, would have not been possible without their narratives. Therefore, the recordings are very precious to me.

I do not enjoy listening to the recordings because I cringe when I hear my voice and the way I speak. Perhaps, disdain is too much of a word to describe how I feel in hearing my voice and listening how I speak. The pitch of my voice is too high, I speak fast as if I am nervous, I do not enunciate the words, and I might have not been very clear with the questions I asked my respondents. I do not really come across as an articulate and calm person who have coherent thought and good command to the language being spoken.

Furthermore, I sense that at some point, I might have heat the nerves of my respondents with some of my questions and how I have framed them. In hindsight, I detect a patronizing tone in my questions and even though it was not my intention, I was putting my respondents into a pigeon hole and perhaps also objectifying them. I might have been guilty of sustaining the hierarchy I was so committed to mitigate.

Now that I can listen to the recordings and assume the third person, I cannot help but criticize the past version of myself and learn from my ‘mistakes’ in the past. For instance, I have asked the wrong questions and missed so much opportunities. In my defence, I did not know exactly the path my research project will take while conducting the interview. I was shooting aimlessly in the dark. While listening to myself and the questions I have asked, it became clear to me that I was in an entirely different frame of mind vis-à-vis of how the research project has turned out.

The most important thing here is to learn from our shortcomings in the past and promise that we will do better the next day. On that same breath, maybe it is a good sign that we are unimpressed with how we performed in the past. That can only mean that we have become a better person than who we were yesterday (linearly progressive though as it may sound).


Belcher, Wendy Laura. Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Princeton University : SAGE, 2009.