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DIY: How to transcribe your research interviews.

How to transcribe your research interview recordings as inexpensively as possible.


Transcribing your own research interviews can help you save on costs if you have a tight budget. You will definitely also get familiar with your data - and it's an advantage!

  • What you will need:

A word processor: The advantages of using a word processor are numerous; auto-correct, spell check, fonts, number of pages, number of words and number of characters, auto save among others. Microsoft Word is the go-to word processor for a high number of transcribers.


Transcription Software: We do not recommend a media player like Windows Media Player

or VLC among others. Whiles many people have found using Windows Media Player - after installing WMP keys plugin - to transcribe easy, it's not an appropriate tool to transcribe efficiently. Use a transcription software. Now, this transcription software is just to help with recording playback and is NOT an automated transcription technology like Dragon Naturally Speaking. Our recommended transcription software is Express Scribe by NCH software, which has a lot of tools and options to help in transcription. Express Scribe allows you to set up and use hotkeys/shortcuts with your keyboard even when you are working in another program, such as Word, accepts multiple audio and video formats, allows you to reduce playback speed, fine-tune audio, etc. You can download for free on PC or Mac.


Food Pedal: This is a device that you can use your foot to control audio playback. Whiles a food pedal is not a prerequisite, it does help to get you through a transcription task efficiently. Some transcribers have found using a food pedal quite useful, others have not. If you're looking to invest in one, you can grab an Infinity USB Digital Foot Pedal off Amazon under $50.


Headphones or headsets: You're also going to need a pair of headphones or headsets. If you decide to use headphones, choose one that's not heavy and doesn't press too hard on the ear. You can also decide to use in-ear headsets, however, prolonged use during transcription just might leave you with itchy or aching ears. Comfort is very important. You can get a Philips Speech Deluxe Transcription Headset LFH0334/00 also under $50 if you're looking to purchase one. It's light weight and comes with soft ear cushions.


Transcribing Mechanics & Tips.

It's time to get in business. The first step is to open a new Microsoft Word document.

First things first: Re-name your new document and save it as the recording name immediately. You should also set the auto save feature to save every 1 minute.

Connect your headset/headphones. Open Express Scribe (set and familiarize yourself with the hotkeys/shortcut keys), and drag and drop to load your recording. Once your recording is loaded up, you can start transcribing. Express Scribe works in the background (you can type without leaving your word processor). You can minimize to the task bar or show Express Scribe Mini Control which can float above your word processor. You can use Express Scribe Mini Control for time-code references, just to avoid using the mouse and allow for a seamless transcription flow.


Now you have Express Scribe loaded, your word processor (MS Word) also opened up, you're ready to go.

Quick tip: If you have a wide screen, you can split your word process together with a browser just in case you'd be doing some Googling or online reference (with a mouse of course:)).

Express Scribe Playback tip: Set rewind playback speed between 2-4 seconds.


  • Play-Pause-Type-Play or

  • Play-Rewind-Type-Rewind (for faster typists)


It takes about four to six hours on average to transcribe an hour of recording. If it's a focus group recording it might take more.


General: If you're transcribing all day/night or for longer periods, take breaks. You can take a 15 minute break for every 90 minutes you sit transcribing. It's very important to take breaks. If you feel tired, stop transcribing and take a break. If you're all of a sudden unable to properly decipher between the interviewer and the respondent, stop transcribing and take a break.


Don't take breaks behind your computer, before you know it you'll have a train of an unending letter, "sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss..." depending on how long you went off, with your fingers on the keyboard.

Finally: Conventions you utilize in your transcripts are very important. The need and methodology of your qualitative research determines the appropriate conventions to use whiles transcribing a research interview recording. They could include your transcript format (clean or verbatim), speaker tokens or identification, pseudonyms, use of non-standard punctuation, phonetics, etcetera. Conventions should be uniformed across all your transcripts under a subject matter. If you will be utilizing and importing your transcripts into a qualitative data analysis software, look into the accepted formatting.


Also, create a template to avoid having set up formatting each time you start a near transcription - this will save you a tremendous amount of time.

Happy transcribing!

turning dialogue into INTELLIGENT TEXT

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