Recording Skype interviews on a Mac

Posted: May 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: research tools | 1 Comment »

For my current research project I used Skype to conduct a series of distal interviews with participants spread all across the United States.  I found Skype to be an excellent platform for this purpose:  it was easy for participants to procure, free for my interviewees to download, inexpensive for me, and user-friendly for everybody.  Happily, with the use of Audio Hijack Pro it was also a simple matter to record the interviews (with participants’ permission, natch).

There are three key reasons why I make it a practice to record interviews whenever possible.  These may be obvious, but (at risk of preaching to the choir) I’ll list them here.  First, although I take copious notes during interviews*, I cannot jot down, verbatim, 100% of what my interviewees say.  Even on my best days I estimate that I lose a good 10% or more of the exact words my interviewees utter.  Having a recording ensures that every valuable word shared by interviewees is saved.  Second, handwritten notes typically do not capture paralinguistic cues such as interviewees’ volume, pitch, inflection, intensity, speed, or silence.  Because such nonverbal cues convey as much meaning as actual words, it’s vital to have an accurate recording of them.  Finally, recordings allow for the possibility of having transcription support.  You can’t very well give someone a sheaf of barely legible scribbled notes and ask them to transcribe them.  You could, however, give a transcriptionist a recording and ask them to prepare a typewritten copy of what has been said.

There are numerous software choices for recording Skype calls, but because I have a Mac, I opted to buy Audio Hijack Pro.  Once AHP is installed, you simply open it up and select the application that you want to record from (in this case, Skype). When you are ready, you click “record.”  That was about as technical as I got with my recordings, but there are plenty more options with AHP for scheduling, tagging, organizing, and modifying your files.

All of my recordings were saved onto my hard drive as mp3 files, and I used VLC to play them back while I was transcribing them.

*Always in a Moleskine, one of the nicest (paper) notebooks out there.

One Comment on “Recording Skype interviews on a Mac”

  1. 1 Tabitha Hart » Blog Archive » More tools for recording phone interviews said at 8:22 pm on February 21st, 2011:

    […] stand by my earlier review of using a combination of Skype + AudioHijack Pro for recording phone interviews.  If, however, […]