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Last updated: September 16, 2022

Chances are, you’re either already working with academic research transcriptions or interested in doing so. Either way, that’s fantastic! Transcripts are significantly useful in stepping up your research game and making academic life less stressful.

Whatever your reasons are for doing transcriptions, take note that there are certain ways of doing it that produce better results. It’s important to learn these best practices so that you can truly make the most out of your research transcriptions without sacrificing other aspects of student life. After all, transcripts should help, not take away from your studies.

Here are 7 best practices to help you maximize transcriptions for success in the academe:

1. Determine the parameters of the interview

To optimize your transcription process, you have to focus on the workflow of your interview method. While this tip covers a much larger scope than just transcription, remember that your transcripts are only as good as the structure of your research.

If your interview discussion lacks focus, valuable insights, or coherent flow, even if you come up with a reliable transcript of the audio recording, the transcript will bring little value to your research.

Thus, to maximize the benefits of your transcripts, you need to make sure that the foundation of your research is rock solid. 

You can work among your colleagues to ensure that the integrity of your research is strong. In any case, you have to consider these crucial parameters:

  • Main topic of the interview
  • Key points of the discussion
  • Critical insights that add to your understanding of the subject matter

You can also note down any points inadequately discussed in the interview in case you want to conduct follow-up interviews or analyses.

2. Dedicate ample time and energy to transcription

There are two facts about academic research transcriptions:

  1. Transcription is most likely a comparatively minor task that takes a lot of time and energy
  2. It also has a lot of long-term benefits that can help you in your academic career

In other words, while transcription is minor compared to your other tasks, it has significant benefits in helping you with your research. Thus, it’s worth putting in sufficient time and effort to do it right.

Like any other skill, transcription can be completed quickly but should not be rushed. Otherwise, you’ll end up with resulting transcripts that you’ll spend more time correcting than actually analyzing. On the other hand, if you do it right, you’ll have invaluable tools at your disposal that can help you not only in your current research but in any future academic endeavors.

With that said, here are some tips to make transcription worth your while:

  • Allocate a time period for every transcription session (preferably, 2 hours per session)
  • Have plenty of rest and drink enough water before and after each transcription session
  • Set up your workplace to be suitable for transcription (e.g., use headphones, stay in a quiet area, sit in a comfortable position)

3. Assign the transcription work efficiently

Transcription is a tedious process with both high reward (better context, understanding, and insights) and high risk (a lot of time and energy spent). But in a busy environment like the academe, you’d want to minimize the risk.

One very effective way of doing that is to split the transcription work among your colleagues. Here are a few ways you can efficiently do that:

Assign a classmate for each week

An effective and fair way of dividing the transcription work is to assign each classmate to do it for a week. This allows you to have a fair share of the transcription work without disrupting each other’s workflow.

Divide the interview audio

Need a transcript in a pinch? Try dividing the audio among your group. For example, you can split a 2-hour interview into 30-minute segments among 4 people. This way, your group can simultaneously transcribe the entire interview, significantly decreasing the time needed for the transcription.

Bonus: Use a transcription service

While the two methods above are effective, they both suffer from the same disadvantage. One way or another, you’ll need to squeeze transcription work into someone’s workflow. And since transcription takes a long time, it can be tedious and disruptive to your overall productivity.

Fortunately, there’s a third option: using a transcription service. Instead of worrying about how you’ll assign the transcription work, you can place the task entirely in the hands of expert transcribers. All you have to do is send in your audio files (and any specifications like custom formatting), and your research group will receive reliable transcripts to help you ace your studies.

4. Skim through the audio at least once before transcribing

No audio recording is perfect. Chances are, your recording copy of the lecture or interview will have issues that make it difficult to transcribe.

While you can power through them during the transcription process, this can lead to more time and energy spent just trying to resolve them. And sometimes, you may be unable to solve the problems at all because of how complex they are.

Instead of discovering the audio issues during the transcription process, you can be proactive and identify them beforehand by skimming through the audio first. This way, you can get a feel of the audio and list down any issues you encounter. This allows you to be ready for them during the actual transcription.

To best skim the audio:

  • Increase the playback speed at an understandable rate
  • Note down any parts of the audio that are unintelligible or difficult to understand. Include the timestamp for each instance in a simple format like an hour:minute: second (e.g., 02:08:05)
  • Listen carefully and try to minimize playing back the audio as much as possible to save time

5. Proofread final transcript efficiently

Once you finish your transcript, you can jump into using it right away — but should you? Chances are, there might be some grammatical, spelling, or formatting errors in the text. You can manage these mistakes and go along with your analysis without much issue. However, it’s still best to proofread your transcript before utilizing it. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Not all your colleagues can understand the transcript with the errors
  • You may forget about the errors and have a hard time understanding the transcript yourself later on
  • Some keywords or critical insights may not be picked up by your search function when you use it

Of course, some people prefer to forego proofreading their transcripts because it takes up even more time and energy. However, it can be more time-consuming and tedious in the long run if you let the errors stay. Thus, it’s best to proofread the transcript for a more efficient research process.

Thankfully, there are ways to proofread your transcript quickly so you can immediately get into the analysis. Here are some techniques for a speedy proofreading process:

  • Divide the transcript equally among your group members
  • Increase the playback speed at a pace where you can read along the transcript
  • Proofread the transcript in a quiet place so you can fully focus and minimize the proofreading as much as possible in a single attempt

6. Make multiple copies of the transcript

Think of your transcript as an important research document. You’d want to protect it at all costs, right?

To a degree, yes, transcripts are vital to research instruments. After all, you made them help in your analysis. One factor you have to consider, however, is the time and energy it took for you to finish them. If you lose your transcripts, you’ll also lose the hours spent creating them (along with the critical insights you gained).

Thus, you have to make sure that you keep multiple copies of your transcripts to protect them. Try one (or all) of the following ways:

  • Keep duplicate copies in your Google Drive, Dropbox, or other cloud storage platforms
  • Have a copy on your desktop or laptop
  • Place a copy in a portable storage device such as a flash drive

7. Format transcript for better accessibility

As discussed earlier, your transcript can be highly advantageous for future use. However, this is mostly true if it’s structured in an easily understandable way. If you plan to future-proof your transcripts and other research materials, you have to format them for better accessibility.

Here are some factors you need to consider:

  • Type of transcription – Is it a full verbatim, smart verbatim, or non-verbatim transcription?
  • Timestamps – Does it have a simple hour: minute format or the full hour:minute:second: millisecond format?
  • Spelling and grammar – Does your transcript have the proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation for seamless navigation?

With these best practices, you can properly leverage university research transcriptions to enhance your research without sacrificing your other work. Still, it’s a nice thought to be able to reap the benefits without the work. Fortunately, that can be a reality. With a transcription service like TranscriptionWing, all you have to do is send your audio recordings, and you’ll receive professionally made transcripts that you can leverage right away.