Five Do’s and Don’ts of Interview Transcriptions

July 22, 2022
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Five Do’s and Don’ts of Interview Transcriptions

Interview transcriptions are very beneficial in a lot of ways. You can use interview transcripts to support your qualitative research, caption content, or serve as a reference material for future research. These benefits are possible, however, only if you do your interview transcriptions properly.

There’s a list of things you have to do and things you need to avoid if you want to reap the benefits of interview transcriptions. Taking these factors into consideration can go a long way for your projects — not only will you be able to make quality transcripts; but you can also save a lot of time and energy. 

Here are five do’s and don’ts of interview transcriptions:

1. Don’t rush the transcription

Transcribing interviews is hard and time-consuming, so much so it can be tempting to breeze through it. After all, you have other things to do, or maybe you just find doing interview transcriptions a total bore.

Transcription speed is definitely a good skill to develop, as it saves a lot of time. However, you have to balance speed with accuracy. Oftentimes, focusing too much on speed can lead to a transcript with:

  • Incorrect speaker labeling
  • Wrong timestamps
  • Grammar mistakes

In fact, rushing the transcription can lead you to spend even more time correcting mistakes.

Do take your time 

Doing interview transcriptions is a skill that takes time to develop. Mostly, this is because transcribing interview audio often takes a lot of concerted effort and time.

Interview transcriptions is more than just elbow grease work, however. If you put your mind to it, transcribing interviews can be engaging and rewarding. The final transcript lets you:

  • Pinpoint and extract critical insights 
  • Increase the accessibility of your project with repurposable content
  • Have an easily navigable material for future research

Of course, you can only enjoy these benefits if you take the time to make your transcript.

2. Don’t spend too much time

Just as you should avoid rushing your transcription, you must also steer clear of taking too much time with it. While you can ensure quality and accuracy this way, it also takes away your time from other tasks. Chances are, transcribing interview audio is a side skill among other more important responsibilities like research and analysis.

Do improve on both accuracy and speed

The key is striking the ideal balance between accuracy and speed, and you can achieve this through proper training.

Here are some ways you can improve both speed and accuracy:

  • Increasing your words-per-minute and accuracy through typing tests
  • Constantly practicing with multiple interview transcripts
  • Optimizing and streamlining your transcription workflow

Another important factor is your workplace. Transcribing interviews requires you to focus on the dialogue, which can be challenging with background noise and other distractions. Thus, find a quiet, comfortable place away from distractions and invest in noise-canceling headphones. This is a great way to reduce workflow interruptions so you can focus on creating an accurate transcript in a speedy manner.

Alternatively, you can use a transcription service like TranscriptionWing, which features professional human transcribers who can transcribe your interviews for you. Save time from honing your transcription skill and spend it on more important tasks instead.

3. Don’t alter the information

Sometimes, your interviewee may say things that are against your findings. This can be upsetting and inconvenient, as you’ve spent so much time setting up the discussion with the interviewee. Such a waste of time and energy — unless you change out a thing or two in the transcription?

It goes without saying that you should never change out the information just so it fits your studies. If you’re working with a team, this can lead to internal conflict and research issues that may eventually result in shutting down your entire study. In other words, you’d be lying about what the interviewee said. It’s never a good idea to alter the information.

Do stick with the information you have

As unfortunate as that may sound, it’s always best to stick with your guns. In fact, if an interviewee’s statements go against your research, it’s still additional information you can use. Most research projects often involve discussion from various points of view, including both proponents and opponents of your research.

Thus, do as you usually do with transcriptions and transcribe the interview in full. Highlight key insights that may be salient to your research and make the most out of your discussion.

4. Don’t forget precise timestamps

One of the most challenging parts of interview transcriptions is the timestamps. Your typical timestamp format is usually something like [hh:mm:ss.milliseconds] -> [hh:mm:ss.milliseconds], which may be as tedious as transcribing the dialogue itself. Why not just cut it down to [hh:mm]? That way, you can finish faster, right?

This may cut down time for the transcription process. However, remember that timestamps serve as a reference point. Your analysis team may, for example, use this reference to further analyze the interviewee’s input through factors like tone of voice. However, if you provide the timestamp as [15:21] -> [15:23], they have to spend additional time to arrive at the specific utterance they’re looking for.

Do place accurate timestamps

If saving time is your main concern, you can cut down the time format to [hh:mm:ss] and even leave out the end point. This may be clear enough to indicate when an utterance will be while saving time. Of course, if you’re working with a team, it’s best to let them know about your style choice.

One major benefit of adding complete timestamps to your transcriptions is making subtitle files for captioning. Adding captions to your videos can greatly increase your content’s accessibility. Plus, making the captions is easy: simply format your transcript as you would a subtitle file, and you hit two birds with one stone. 

SRT files, for example, use the following format:

          [hh:mm:ss,milliseconds] --> [hh:mm:ss,milliseconds]

          Transcript line

Transcribe the interview audio in this format, and you can create an accurate transcript that also acts as a caption file.

5. Don’t settle with the first version

You’ve spent a few hard hours transcribing the interview audio: time to submit the transcript, right? Most of the time, no, not really. The quality and accuracy of your transcript is still uncertain. If you submit it to your team, they may find it confusing and send it back to you, which may take up more time.

Do review your transcription

One of the key aspects of effective interview transcriptions is accuracy. Besides benefitting your team, it’s also to give justice to the interviewee’s insights. Thus, transcription editing is always necessary to ensure that the interview transcript is accurate. Even if it means spending an extra hour or so, it’s worth spending the time for ensured accuracy.

There are many other factors that you need to know about interview transcriptions, but these five are among the most important. Transcribing interviews is a deceptively simple skill: it’s easy to learn but hard to master. If you lack time to learn transcription and want to dedicate yourself to your main projects, consider using TranscriptionWing. Getting your interview transcripts is as easy as uploading your audio file and waiting for your transcript.

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