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Tips for Transcribing Interviews

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Tips for Transcribing Interviews

From academia to the boardroom, there are several use cases for transcribing interviews, from collecting qualitative data to recording important conversations with thought leaders. Transcribing interviews to yield accurate, usable transcripts is much easier with these tips.

Transcription Tip 1: Format Diligently

Before you even get started transcribing an interview, be clear about your goal, and consider how you can best meet it with attention to careful formatting.

For example, if you are a graduate student planning to use data from interviews in your dissertation, it may be useful to format each transcript with careful attention to date and time, participants’ names, and the name of the file you are transcribing for quick reference. If you are transcribing interviews with experts in your field for your company’s website, you might prefer to work with a format that prompts you to provide information on the speaker’s background and where the interview took place.

To make things easier for yourself, you can set up a few templates to access, copy, and paste into a new document each time you are prepared to transcribe.

Transcription Tip 2: Work Strategically

Once you are ready to transcribe, it’s a good idea to work through an audio file in sections. In order to do this effectively and maximize your time and accuracy, it can help to listen to your file once from start to finish and pause to note natural end-points for sections (and their corresponding time stamp). This is helpful when you move on from one topic to another or when a speaker finishes an anecdote.

After strategically dividing up your audio file, work section by section, playing back a given portion of conversation as much as you need to right away in order to ensure accuracy. Once you have transcribed the entire audio file, listen from start to finish as many times as it takes, pausing as you go to correct mistakes.

Transcription Tip 3: Preserve the Message while Editing Filler

Transcribing interviews is a bit of a tightrope walk: on the one side, you have the obligation to preserve a speaker’s meaning and intention. On the other, you have the goal of making a transcription as readable as possible. In order to serve both of these masters, you can feel confident about editing out utterances or asides such as “um,” “uh,” “like,” and “you know,” or any other variation which a speaker repeats often.

Trickier is what to do with phrases such as “gonna,” or idiomatic pronunciations or contractions which can matter greatly to the speaker’s message or tone, but which may be unfamiliar to those who will read the transcript. Here, you will have to again return to the purpose of the transcription, examining the question through that lens. If you will be using the data for research purposes, verbatim transcription is preferable. If, on the other hand, you are transcribing interviews for content marketing purposes, you may find that it feels more natural to preserve the speaker’s meaning while transcribing contractions or idiomatic pronunciations into their component parts. It may even be appropriate to edit the transcript for grammar or clarity, if a verbatim copy is not needed.

Transcription is an art, but these tips will help make your experience more productive. To get professional support on your transcription projects, give us a call at Preferred Transcriptions to talk about your next transcript.

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