How to transcribe an interview

Transcribing is converting speech to text word for word. Transcribing is a common practice when conducting interviews because it enables you to perform analysis.

The most important steps in the transcription process are:

  1. Recording (audio quality is important)
  2. Determining the type of transcription (verbatim, intelligent verbatim, or edited)
  3. Transcribing (1 hour interview takes ± 5 hours)
  4. Proofreading and editing
  5. Analyzing and comparing

Transcription software comparison

Transcription methods

Before you start transcribing, you first need to determine what transcription method you want to use. The best method depends on the goal of your transcription.

Verbatim transcription

Write down every single word, including pauses, the expression of emotions such as laughter, stuttering, and hesitations such as “uh”.

This type of transcription is mostly used in the legal profession or in research where you’re not only interested in what is said but also how it is said.

Intelligent verbatim transcription (most common)

Write down every word, but without irrelevant fillers like “uhm”, “yeah”, “you know” etc. To improve readability, you can also fix grammar mistakes, broken sentences and long paragraphs.

This method is more readable than verbatim transcription, but some data — such as emotions, pauses and hesitation — is lost in the process.

Edited transcription

A summarized and edited version of an intelligent verbatim transcript. In addition to omitting fillers like “you know”, irrelevant sentences can be omitted if it doesn’t change the meaning of the story.

Altering the transcript

If the audio quality is bad or the conversation itself needs clarification, you are allowed to make changes in the transcript. For instance:

  • Adding a clarifying comment: “I showed him that this option [raising prices] would be beneficial for profitability.”
  • Marking unclear / missing audio with ellipses: “I showed him would be beneficial for profitability”
  • Emphasizing words:Increasing prices is needed for profitability”

Example transcription

There are no rules for formatting and structuring a transcript. However, most transcripts contain the following information:

  • Names of the interviewer and interviewee (can be anonymized)
  • Date and time when the interview took place
  • Location of the interview
  • Speaker designation (who says what?)
  • Line numbers and time stamps (optional)

Intelligent verbatim transcription of an interview

Interviewer: Raimo Streefkerk (RS)
Interviewee: Sales manager John Smith (JS)
Date and time: April 5th 2019 16:00
Location: Headquarter company X in Los Angeles

RS: Thank you for taking the time for this interview.

JS: You’re welcome! I’m happy to answer your questions, because the subject interests me too.

RS: I’d like to start with a question about your relationship with your customers. What does this relationship look like?

JS: I always strive for a relationship where I truly know what challenges my customer is facing and how I can help with them. We’re not just a supplier of products, but we actually try to help. The only way that’s possible is by understanding what they want to accomplish.

Analyzing interview transcripts

After transcribing the interview(s) it is time to start analyzing. There are several techniques for doing this – coding and categorizing is one of them.

This means that you link keywords (e.g. “understanding customer”) to the answers you’ve received to your questions. Based on these keywords you are able to find connections between the answers of different respondents.

Transcription software

Transcribing interviews takes a lot of time, but luckily transcription software is developing quickly! Using transcription software can help you speed up the process.

Accuracy

Most software is able to accurately convert English speech to text. However, the audio quality must be good in order for the software to work. That means a noise-free background, no over-talk, clear accents and good microphones.

If the audio quality is too poor for automatic transcription, you unfortunately have to dictate it or transcribe it manually.

Comparison

We tested and reviewed the transcription software below using the audio of a YouTube video in which Bill Gates is interviewed. The audio meets all the criteria listed above.

Transcription software comparison 2019
Hourly rate (pay as you go)Hourly rate (monthly plan)Free trial?
Happy Scribe$13.40$11.1830 minutes
Trint$13.3330 minutes
Transcribe$61 minute

Happy Scribe

Happy Scribe Transcription Software

Pros

  • Speaker recognition
  • Clean and intuitive editor
  • Omits ‘uhs’ and stuttering
  • Correct capitalization and use of periods
  • 25% student discount

Cons

  • Doesn’t insert punctuation (except for periods)

Trint

Trint Transcription Software

Pros

  • Good speaker recognition
  • Simple but powerful interface
  • Comment and highlight feature
  • Ignores intro music from video
  • Easy to keep track of reviewing progress

Cons

  • Some missing spaces
  • Doesn’t insert punctuation (except for periods)

Transcribe

Transcribe Transcription Software

Pros

  • Solid speaker recognition
  • Very good capitalization and punctuation (including commas)
  • Much cheaper than other transcription software

Cons

  • Just a 1-minute trial
  • Dated editor with limited functionality
  • Doesn’t connect audio and transcript
  • $20 annual license fee
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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo has a bachelor's and master's degree and has written several papers and theses. He likes to share his knowledge by writing helpful articles.

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