Chester & Cheshire

How to Transcribe an Interview

Conducting interviews is often essential to digging deeper and getting the full story, yet a raw interview is of little use. Scanning through notes or endless audio recordings takes a lot of time and effort. You won’t be able to quickly switch between sections in order to analyse the connections between them. This makes it difficult to pull out the most important elements, you won’t be easily able to tell whether you need to perform more interviews in order to collect further data. In order to get the most from your interview, you need to create a written version, or a transcript. Here’s how to transcribe an audio interview. 

How to Transcribe Interviews

There are two different ways to transcribe an interview. You can attempt to do it yourself, which means playing back the audio and typing the transcript as you go - this typically takes around four hours for every hour of audio. The easiest, and more time efficient option is to hire a professional transcription service - you’ll get a high-quality transcription back in a reasonably quick timeframe. 

If you think that you want to give transcribing your own interviews, here are the steps to take.

  1. Block Out Time

The length of time it takes you to manually transcribe your audio to text depends on a few different factors. If all goes according to plan, the average person can transcribe one hour of audio in every four hours. If the quality of the audio isn’t crystal clear, if there’s a lot of muffled noise it could take even longer. Other factors that can affect how long it takes to transcribe include not being able to understand the speaker or a lack of familiarity with any jargon or terminology used. 

  1. Choose a Transcription Style

There are two basic transcriptions styles which work well for audio transcription:

Non-Verbatim Transcription

This is known as smooth transcription or intelligent transcription - it removes fillers, vocal tics and the like. You choose the level of editing you want to do; but whatever transcription rules you decide to follow, make sure that you apply them consistently throughout the entire document. 

Verbatim Transcription

This means that you write exactly what you hear. Every filler, interjection and stutter is transcribed. You transcribe every sentence exactly as it has been said - verbatim transcription is typically the most difficult, as it requires strong focus and an extraordinary attention to detail. 

  1. Cue the Audio

Whether you enjoy using traditional tapes or a digital recording device, you’ll need to frequently start, stop, pause and rewind the audio. Choose a playback method which provides you with easy to use controls, then cue the audio to the beginning of the interview. 

  1. Start Transcribing

Begin to playback the audio file and type as you listen - be prepared and ready to pause it frequently as you catch up. You will probably need to rewind and listen again to numerous areas of the recording; this lets you be sure that you created an accurate transcription of what was actually said. Pay strict attention to the editing rules you decided to follow, make sure you keep the transcript consistent. 

Choose your label for each speaker, so that the transcript clearly shows who’s speaking. In general, it’s best practice to write out each person’s full name the first time he or she speaks. Then you can use the person’s first name, initials, or title such as “interviewer” in any subsequent references. 

There might be sections of the audio which are unintelligible. If you rewind it a few times and simply can’t make out what has been said, insert the word “unintelligible” in brackets and keep going with the rest of the recording. If you are fairly sure you know what was said, but can’t be certain, make your best guest - then place brackets around the words that you aren’t positive about.

  1. Edit the Transcript

Different industries or fields have different editing conventions. For example, medical transcription is generally edited differently from legal transcriptions. Regardless of the field you’re in, editing is the time for you to make sure that the transcript is crystal clear. Be sure to clarify any confusing elements - check your punctuation, spelling and grammar.

  1. Review the Transcript

When your transcript is complete, including any edits, playback the entire audio from the beginning. Read along from the transcript, looking for any errors. If you find anything that needs to be changed, pause the audio, make the correction and then continue. Your transcript isn’t over until you can follow it along error-free. 

Using Transcription Services 

Transcribing audio recordings is a labor-intensive and time-consuming task, especially if you’re unfamiliar with doing it. If you’re like many people, the hours you spend creating an audio transcription could be better spent on other tasks that are more directly related to your field. 

Transcription services take the task off your plate. Just submit the audio file, along with speaker names and any specialized glossaries, and they’ll go to work for you. 

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