Skip to main content

What Does GDPR Mean For Qualitative Researchers?

By 2nd April 2019September 10th, 2019No Comments
Top Tips for New University Students

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK Data Protection Act came into effect on 25 May 2018.

This means the qualitative researcher who, through recording interviews and focus groups, is collecting personal data about a participant from the UK, EU or any other country in the world, needs to comply with the GDPR.

Here are 5 key points to consider when conducting qualitative research for your project:  

1. Data Collection

A key aspect of GDPR is data minimization, which means that organisations should not collect, store, or use more data on a subject than is absolutely necessary.

There are some easy best practices for collecting data lawfully:

  • Only ask users for information you need;
  • Only use information or data according to the reasons stated for collecting them;
  • For every piece of data you collect, have a ‘lawful basis’ for processing that data, which include the respondent’s “consent” and processing that is necessary for the “legitimate interests” of the qualitative researcher.

For more information, visit ICO’s page on the best GDPR practices your companies can take.

2. Consent

Be sure to give all participants the information they need and ask them to sign a consent form. Without this, you cannot use their data under EU law.

  • Respondents should be made aware what information is being collected about them and why, explain the possible future uses of their data;
  • Gain informed consent for data sharing, be transparent about any third parties you might be sharing the outputs of the research with. For example, this could involve a transcription service you’re using.
  • Qualitative researchers should indicate steps that will safeguard anonymity and confidentiality;
  • Outline participants’ right to withdraw from the research and how to do this.

3. Anonymisation

The GDPR does not apply to anonymised information.  Anonymisation is the process of removing personal identifiers, both direct and indirect, that may lead to an individual being identified.

De-identification or anonymisation of personal data as early as feasible in the research process will minimise exposure to the liabilities under GDPR as individual rights and corporate responsibilities apply to personal not anonymised data.

Some tips for anonymising:

  • Plan anonymisation early in the research and at the time of transcription or initial write up;
  • Do not ask for full names etc., unless they can be used in the data;
  • Decide on replacements/coding that is consistent throughout the research team and materials produced;
  • Create a log of all replacements made and store such a log separately from the anonymised data files.

While there may be incentives for some qualitative research to process data in anonymised form, this technique may devalue the data so before anonymisation, consideration should be given to the purposes for which the data is to be used.

For more information on anonymisation, visit the UK Data Service.

4. Psuedonymisation

Unlike anonymous data, pseudonymous data remains subject to the remit of GDPR.

5. Archiving/Data Storage

Under the GDPR/Data Protection Act 2018 personal data should not be kept longer than necessary.

  • All data should be stored as safely and securely as possible, researchers should have specific policies and procedures for storing and sharing data. Measures should be put into place to ensure data are protected, and that the minimum amount of data is shared.
  • Under GDPR, people have the right to access personal information held about them by an organisation. To be compliant with data requests, you’ll need to be able to easily retrieve personal information you are holding about an individual. Ensure you are able to retrieve transcripts, recordings and any other data you’re holding and provide it within one month of the request date.
We hope you found this of help.  We are not legal experts, so it is advisable that you clarify with your legal team regarding what your organisation needs to do.

If Transcribe It can help you with transcription of your qualitative research and/or anonymisation needs, please do contact us.

Please give us a call on 01992 445411 and we’ll discuss how we can help you with your audio recordings.

Alternatively, you can email us your audio transcription enquiry at and we’ll be in touch with a quote!