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How and when to anonymise qualitative interviews is a growing issue for many researchers.   Why?

[1] Research teams in the social sciences are growing in size, which means that data is often being shared between institutions during research. 

[2] There are increasing demands from funders and the research community to make research data shareable with the wider research community after a project has ended. 

[3] New GDPR legislation means that researchers need to be more explicit about what personal data processing they are doing and who they are sharing data with. 

This requires careful consideration of the different kinds of anonymisation required at different stages, to remove personal details from qualitative research data according to law, good research practice, and the consent given my research participants. 

Why anonymise?

Anonymisation is a valuable tool that allows data to be shared, whilst preserving privacy. The process of anonymising data requires that identifiers are changed in some way such as being removed, substituted, generalised or aggregated.   

What does GDPR say?

Whilst GDPR states that the data protection law does not apply to data rendered anonymous in such a way that the data subject is no longer identifiable, true anonymisation of qualitative data can be particularly complex.  You should also note that when you do anonymise personal data, you are still processing the data at that point.  

The Research Ethics Guidebook notes that it may be better to use a reasonable level of anonymisation, alongside other regulations – for example in data access – to ensure that the assurances of confidentiality and anonymity that you give to research participants can realistically be maintained.

The ICO has produced a code of practice, giving detailed guidance on the use of anonymisation.

Transcription Services

The Value of Audio Transcription When Anonymising Data:

The ICO states the use of a third party organisation could be considered and can be particularly effective where a number of organisations each want to anonymise the personal data they hold for use in a collaborative project.  

“A trusted third party is an organisation which can be used to convert personal data into an anonymised form. This is particularly useful in the context of research, as it allows researchers to use anonymised data in situations where using raw personal data is not necessary or appropriate.”

Audio transcription by a UK transcription services company can be a valuable tool in anonymising qualitative data, where transcribers turn audio into text, recognising when to strip identifiers from the transcript, and identify a distinctive event or combination of descriptions that could make somebody recognisable.   

Transcribe It can help you with audio transcription of your qualitative research and/or anonymisation needs.   We anonymise free of charge and for a small extra fee, can produce two copies of one transcript, the original unedited version and one anonymised, as per client requirements.

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

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