Grad Students: Record Your Meetings With Your Profs

by Jonathan Sterne on May 16, 2008

I know the headline sound paranoid, but it’s not.

Just think about it. You’ve written a chapter of your dissertation, a seminar paper, whatever. You go in and meet with your prof for an hour or more and have a great discussion about it. You take some notes. You’re excited. You get busy. You leave the project for awhile. You come back to it weeks or months later and remember what you wrote down (maybe), but that’s it.

At least two of the students with whom I work have taken to recording these kinds of meetings. I had one dissertation proposal defence recorded and a few one-on-one meetings. You do have to listen to it again and not be horrified at the sound of your own voice (and/or relive the experience if it’s a defence), but it is a way to have a freer-flowing conversation, not worry about getting everything down, and to just be in the moment.

Anyway, my students have used the voice recorder add-on for the iPod and also just the built-in microphone on the mac laptop with Audacity, which is a free program. I’ve got at least two people swearing by the practice now.

In fact, I was once told by a Michael Denning student that he doesn’t write comments on seminar papers but instead insists that students meet with him. I might try that with my sound course in the fall and also record the meetings, providing each student with a record of it immediately afterward.

All this takes more time and is less efficient in some ways, but if it works for you, you may get more out of the meeting. And your prof has to be willing to be recorded.

Of course, you need to make sure you turn OFF the recorder when you get to the part of the meeting where the discussion moves to things you may not want recorded.

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