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How to prepare for a DARG session

This guide is intended for researchers interested in participating in DARG data sessions. While DARG these days usually focuses on conventional interactional data (video/audio and transcripts), note that DARG sessions are also open to a broader range of data types featuring social interaction including chat logs, social media, and more (get in touch if you’d like to check with us).

We also have some DARG sessions looking at e.g., transcription software, or close readings of new articles/books etc. However, this guide is intended to give researchers guidelines for presenting data.

These tips are not exhaustive and are a work-in-progress. Please give us feedback and let us know what other tips we should be listing here!

Selecting data for your DARG session

You can either bring data for unmotivated looking, or where there is a focal phenomenon of some sort e.g., specific lexical, gestural, sequential, pragmatic, contextual, topical features.

Pick out a few data excerpts where you can describe the occasion and situation being observed (where/when/sequence/location etc.).

For a session without a specified focal phenomenon, make sure that the beginning of the selected segment has the start of something generally recognisable. It could be the start of the interaction, or the beginning of an action sequence or the beginning of an activity. Clips selected ‘unmotivated looking might be longer (1 minute or even more), but we will usually find a shorter segment to focus on.

For a session with a focal phenomenon, make sure you can point out moments/features where participants orient to it. During the session, we aim to offer proposals regarding features and uses of the focal phenomenon and circumstances in which the phenomenon occurs and/or the practice is performed. Usually clips for these sessions are shorter (up to ~30 seconds). Also note that while many participants will focus on whatever you specifically are interested in, sometimes comments will be broader, or will deal with something other than the specified focal phenomenon. This is often one of the most useful aspects of the data session.

To do this kind of analytic work, it helps to have a good transcript.

Providing a transcript

Most researchers produce a transcript using EM/CA transcription conventions. It is useful to have this kind of textual resource, especially since DARG sessions are often hybrid these days, so remote viewers might find it difficult to follow if e.g., you bring video data with subtitles but no printable/digital transcript.

Please also consider adding your email address to your hand-out so that people can share additional observations with you or communicate with you easily after the session.

If there are restrictions on the re-use or retention of your data, please say so on your hand-out e.g., “Please delete this after the data session” or “Please get in touch if you would like to re-use these data”.

Advantages of providing transcripts

  • You and other participants have something convenient to write notes on.
  • You can capture errors or issues in the transcription easily.
  • Participants can refer to line numbers that are off-screen when they make their observations.

Advantages of subtitles on-screen

  • You don’t miss the action looking up and down between page and screen.
  • Generally easier to understand immediately than multi-line transcript when presenting data in a language your session participants might not understand.
  • You can present this data in environments where you don’t have the opportunity to print out and distribute paper transcripts.

Both are nice, but at least a line-by-line transcript is the minimum requirement for a useful data session.

Please try to supply the transcript at least two days in advance to allow for any revisions/issues and so we can send it out to participants (in lots of different time zones) in good time for them to use it.

Transcription tips

  1. Line numbers: Make sure you have included line numbers on all your excerpts – ideally ‘hard’ line numbers (not list items or automatic line numbering produced by a word processor as these sometimes display differently on different word processors/operating systems).
  2. Three line transcription with English translations: DARG sessions all (so far) operate in English, so if you are working with non-English data, please follow the conventions outlined in Hepburn & Bolden 2012 for presenting data to English-speaking audiences.
  3. Time stamps: it can help to add time-stamps to your transcripts so it is easy to navigate through your audio/video files to find specific moments corresponding to line numbers pointed out during the data session.

Introducing your data

Once people have been introduced at the start of the data session, you will be asked to introduce your data. You do not need to go into a lot of depth, but please be prepared to explain anything that data session participants will need to know in order to make sense of the data/your target phenomena. You can add this to your hand-out if it is especially complicated or might need to be reviewed several times.

Preparing your audio/video data.

  • Clips should be up to ~30 seconds. Longer clips, especially complex/busy ones may need to be broken down for analysis into smaller chunks.
  • Test your audio levels to make sure that your clips are audible and visible without headphones and on smaller screens. If in doubt, use audio editing software (such as Audacity) to make sure the audio in your files is as loud as possible without clipping.

Showing your data

  • If possible, arrange with the DARG coordinator join the DARG session 15 minutes early so you can test the audio and video projection/display equipment in the room (or online).
  • Make sure each clip/slide is clearly named and/or numbered to correspond with sections of a transcript, so that people can follow it easily.
  • Test out your audiovisual playback software to make sure you can easily locate specific moments.

Thanks & more ideas welcome

Thanks to DARG session regulars Charles Antaki, Ruth Parry, Marco Pino, Jessica Robles and Anita Pomerantz for their input. If you have any further thoughts to add to this guide, please leave them in the comments or email There is also a longer guide on Saul Albert’s blog that includes additional details.

Join the discussion

  • Charles,

    Thank you Saul – those are very helpful guidelines.

    • Saul Albert,

      Thanks for your feedback Charles! Any other ideas – please feel free to leave more comments and I’ll integrate them as we go.