Step-by-Step Breakdown of Transcribing Qualitative Interviews

August 10, 2022

Step-by-Step Breakdown of Transcribing Qualitative Interviews

Whatever your industry or niche is, qualitative interviews are very effective tools for gathering information for your research. But if you want to make the most out of your interviews, you should consider transcribing them. Transcribing qualitative interviews has a lot of benefits, including increased accessibility and having reference points for future research.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Transcription, in general, is long and tedious and can be a major roadblock to your productivity. That’s why it’s tempting to stick with note-taking, which does have benefits of its own. However, if you want a reference point that will help you in the long term, transcriptions are the way to go.

If time is your concern, then, fortunately, there’s a way to do it and reap the benefits quickly. Here’s how you can transcribe your qualitative interviews in a breeze.

1. Review what you need to know about the interview

Technically, it’s possible for you to simply jump into transcribing your qualitative interview as soon as you receive it. After all, transcription is just typing down the dialogue; it’s unnecessary to know what the discussion is about, right?

That may be correct to an extent. However, if you’re part of a research team, it’s crucial that each of you know what the interview is about, especially when you begin analyzing your gathered data together.

In fact, the main advantage of transcribing your interviews yourself is that you get to understand the insights \more deeply since you’re listening intently to the dialogue. With a better understanding of the context, your contributions to the team come in the form of a reliable transcript and a clear view of the dialogue.

There are a lot of factors to consider about the interview, but you can boil them down into two topics:

  • Subject of your research. What is your research about? What claims are you making, and what support do you need to back them up?
  • Purpose and topic of the interview. Why do you need to interview the respondent? What information can they provide for your research?

If you understand what these two are before transcribing, you’ll be able to recognize which lines of dialogue are key points or critical insights for your research.

2. Listen to the entire audio file at least once

Transcriptions are rarely a smooth ride. Playing back the audio is necessary to catch any parts that were hard to understand. This is one of the biggest reasons why it takes long to make interview transcriptions.

Fortunately, you can shave off a considerable amount of time if you can anticipate the challenging parts of your audio. You can do this by simply listening to the audio once or twice. Doing this allows you to:

  • Gauge the pacing of the dialogue
  • Identify transcription challenges in advance (e.g., unintelligible utterances, crosstalk, thick accents)
  • Determine how much time you need to allot for transcription

In other words, it’s like dipping your toes to see how the water is before taking a dive. Of course, in the actual transcription, you may still need to rewind the audio from time to time. But this will be much less frequent than if you jump straight into the transcription.

You may find yourself doing this with every transcription task, since your work may involve transcription only as an auxiliary task. If you want to have maximum efficiency with getting your interview transcripts, you’ll have to leave it with a professional transcriptionist. Consider using a transcription service like TranscriptionWing that has a roster of expert transcribers who can satisfy your transcript needs so you can allot more time to your research.

3. Start transcribing the audio with the proper setup

Transcription is a skill that you can apply anywhere, but shines in the proper conditions. While transcribing predominantly relies on the sense of hearing, in reality, it involves all of your senses. 

Just like any other skill, transcription needs a specific setup for the best performance. Thankfully, it only takes a little preparation to go a long way with transcription. These are some things you need to do to have the ideal setup for transcribing your qualitative interviews.

  • Stay in a quiet environment away from any distractions
  • Use noise-canceling headphones with a sufficient volume to hear the dialogue
  • Sit on a comfortable chair to work on the transcription longer
  • Schedule your transcription session at a time when you have no other commitments 

Once your setup is ready, you can proceed with transcribing your qualitative interviews. You can boil the process down to five steps:

  1. Open the media player and text processor of your choice and place them beside each other
  2. Play the footage on your media player and transcribe the dialogue, indicating the start point (and end point, if necessary), speaker names, and lines of dialogue
  3. If necessary, play back parts of the audio for any segments that were hard to transcribe
  4. Place a symbol on each line of dialogue that you’re unable to understand
  5. Indicate any key points or highlights with a symbol for easier navigation

It may seem deceptively simple, but that’s actually all it takes to transcribe audio. The real challenge is in the time it takes to finish a transcription. Typically, transcription takes a long time to do. A 30-minute audio clip may take up to three hours to fully transcribe. Of course, your mileage may vary with practice.

If you find yourself transcribing qualitative interviews for the long term, it’s best to practice some crucial components to improve your transcription speed. Consider working on the following as practice:

  • Typing speed
  • Listening skills
  • Ability to understand various accents

4. Proofread your transcription

Transcripts are never final the first time. Even when you make a transcript in a rush, you still have to make sure that it’s accurate. Otherwise, it may lead to confusion and delays in the workflow to verify and correct possible errors. This can be fatal, especially to research projects that have a tight timeframe of completion.

Hence, even if it may seem like an extra lengthy step of the transcription process, proofreading your work can actually save a lot of time.

Besides looking out for any grammar or punctuation errors, here are some things you should do when proofreading your transcript:

  • Verify the spelling of technical terms used in the discussion
  • Review which speaker said certain lines
  • Cross-check the accuracy of the start and end points of your dialogue
  • If possible, ask a team member to proofread the transcript with you

Use a transcription service for quality transcripts in a flash

As simple as it is, the skill of transcription can take a lot of time and energy. Chances are, it’s only a minor part of your actual responsibilities. Nevertheless, it can bring a lot of value to your current study as well as any future research projects you have.

You can learn quick, accurate transcription over time. However, regardless of how good you get, you’ll still be leaving a hole in your team when it comes to the literature review, data analysis, and other crucial components of your research.

If you want to reap the benefits of interview transcriptions while being able to focus more on your actual research, consider using a transcription service like TranscriptionWing. You can rely on a roster of expert transcriptionists who can transcribe your qualitative interviews for you, giving you more time and energy for more important aspects of your research.

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