Transcribing an Interview with Expertise: A Systematic Guide


Transcribing an Interview with Expertise: A Systematic Guide
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

4/8/2020

Interviews can be quite challenging to transcribe, especially if they involve multiple speakers, poor audio quality, speakers with heavy accents, or environmental nuisances such as background noises. 

You should anticipate these challenges and plan on how to tackle them ahead of time. Also, you need to be patient, have excellent listening skills, and take time to edit the content if you want to successfully transcribe the interview.

Read on to learn how to prepare for and expertly transcribe interviews.

Do You Have the Right Tools for the Job?

To successfully tackle any transcription job, you need the right equipment. You should at least have a computer, noise-canceling headphones, and transcription software.

Using the right tools can help speed up your transcription. For example, with transcription software, you can slow down or increase the speed of the recording, depending on your preference. Having good quality earphones can block out excess noise and allow you to hear what the speakers are discussing accurately.

In some circumstances, it may be possible to use automatic transcribing software. However, this option is usually followed by manually editing the transcripts, which can take longer if the software could not pick the speakers’ accents.

Determine the Level of Details You Will Want

The transcript’s purpose should help determine the level of detail and accuracy needed when transcribing. For example, if readers will only need to sift through and pull quotes from the transcript, you may not want to transcribe verbatim.

Here are the options you have when it comes to levels of details:

  • Full Verbatim: This option captures every sound in the recording, including interruptions, uhms, ahs, false starts, and more. Generally, full verbatim isn’t necessary for a lot of projects.
  • Verbatim: Also known as “clean verbatim” or “intelligent verbatim,” involves editing the transcript for readability. Verbatim leaves out interruptions, like false starts, and “uhms.” The result of this option is a cleaner transcript.
  • Others: You can choose “detailed notes,” which involves summarizing the important aspects of the recording. This means removing things like unnecessary off-topic conversations. 

The level of detail you choose can determine how long you will take to finish the interview transcription.

Listen to the Record All Way Through

Now it's time to get to work. Start by listening to the recording thoroughly, especially if specific details are important, and if you are not conversant with the subject matter.

Take brief notes as you listen to the recording. This will help you plan how to structure the final transcript. Note the following:

  • Do the speakers have heavy accents?
  • Are there terminologies being used that you do not understand?
  • How many speakers are in the interview?
  • How long is the interview?

Keep in mind, all these factors will affect the quality of your transcript as well as the time it will take for completion.

By listening to the recording, you will know whether to transcribe the recording in one or multiple run-throughs.

Transcribe a Rough Draft

The first draft is more about speed rather than accuracy. So, try to get as much text as possible onto the page. There will be time to clean up the content later.

Ideally, you do not want to transcribe the whole recording in one shot. If you do so, you will get tired fast and can make many errors. Unless you are dealing with a short recording, take breaks frequently to rejuvenate your eyes. 

Another tip is not to rewind the audio just because you missed something. There will be time after your rough draft to make necessary edits to any mistakes you make. Rewinding the file will disrupt your typing flow.

Edit the Content

The first draft helps build the body of the interview transcript. However, it usually has lots of errors, such as mishears and misspelled words. You will have to edit the rough draft transcript and polish it for meaning and grammar accuracy.

Listen to the recording again and compare it against your rough draft transcript. You can use tools, like VLC Media Player, to slow down the interview so that you can easily pair and follow it together with your transcript.

This step requires you to be patient. Going through an hour of audio as you compare it for accuracy with your transcript can take quite some time.

After editing, proofread the content to ensure everything flows.

Format the Document

Finally, you should format the document so that it looks like an interview transcript. Add headings, paragraphs, titles, page numbers, and adjust the font size.

Also, during this stage, replace any placeholder texts used.

Check the transcript to ensure it meets the client’s formatting requirements before submitting it.

Now you know how to expertly and accurately transcribe an interview. Alternatively, you can also hire a professional transcription services company to do an interview or audio transcription for you.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc an Orange County, California based company that has been providing accurate and affordable transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed success at GMR for almost ten years now and has helped the company grow. Within two years of Beth managing GMR Transcription, it had doubled in sales and was named one of the OC Business Journal’s fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she likes spending time with her husband and two kids.