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How to Effectively Conduct Qualitative Research Transcription

Transcribing qualitative research needs a lot of time and effort, and it is easier said than done.

By Beth WorthyPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
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Source: Pexels

The time needed to transcribe depends on many factors, like the typing speed of the transcriber, the number of speakers involved, duration of the recording, whether the recording consists of complex terminologies, activities, or actions, and much more. It may take several hours to just transcribe an hour-long interview!

Transcribing audio yourself can take up a lot of time as you must go through the recordings repeatedly to analyze them.

Here’s an in-depth guide on how you can effectively transcribe qualitative research.

Transcription tools

There are several good transcription tools available on the web. You can use them to take note of the important portions of your qualitative research and analyze them. They might make the translation substantially easier and quicker, but such apps are not always accurate. In contrast, human transcription can provide far more accurate results despite taking longer to complete

Whatever approach you would like to take with the transcription process, whether you want to get it done manually or with the help of various software, it is important to include certain basic information in all the transcribed documents. Always include the following information in all your transcribed documents:

  • Name of the research
  • Name of the speakers
  • Date and the interview time of the original event
  • Context of the recoding
  • The number or the file name of the audio
  • Duration of the recording for further analysis

Why include timestamps?

It is essential to use timestamps while transcribing recordings. It is a great way to go back to the important parts of the recording that can be useful for transcription in qualitative research purposes.

Benefits of automatic line numbering

The numbers are software generated and provide an easier way to identify the important lines. Most word processing software apps can do so accurately.

A lot of decision-making is involved in transcribing a qualitative research audio recording. Several questions might pop up like:

How can you transcribe conversation into actual sentences?

This can be done through using proper punctuations while transcribing conversations and audio, especially while switching speakers or beginning new. Also, it's necessary to keep the conversations as real as possible and accurately portray the tones of individual characters.

How should I transcribe slang and regional dialects? (A lot of people say words like "dunno" or "gonna")

This will depend on the transcript format being used. For example, verbatim transcription alters the spoken words slightly into text that expresses the message exactly how it’s been spoken. However, clean verbatim transcripts use the proper forms of adjectives and adverbs at the appropriate positions. So ‘gonna’ can be written as ‘going to’ and ‘y’all’ can be written as ‘you all.’

A full verbatim transcript also doesn’t include slang. However, some transcript forms demand slang and colloquial terms be transcribed exactly as they are spoken.

Should interactions also be transcribed? For instance, laughter or other emotional outbursts should ideally be transcribed?

Yes, nonverbal cues and communications like laughter, crying, anger, etc., can be transcribed and help analyze the results better. Typically brackets ([]) are used to transcribe nonverbal cues, and the transcript never interprets the cues. For example, transcribers can write:

We bid a tearful farewell. [crying]

Instead of:

It was a sad day. [cying sadly].

Also, transcripts typically keep the tone consistent while identifying behaviors and avoid mixing up the tenses, i.e., don’t use [crying] in one place and [cried] in others.

What happens if a speaker talks about a different case or a study in the recording? Should that be transcribed too?

Typically, transcription does not involve correcting the speaker's grammar or reorganizing the speakers’ statements and words. Transcripts generally include the actual words spoken in the way they are spoken. Any statements, words, or phrases that appear off-topic or irrelevant are not deleted. Similarly, anything that’s not spoken is never included.

How to transcribe filler words like ‘um’ ‘urgh’ ‘eh’ ‘uh’ etc.?

Whether or not these should be transcribed will depend on the situation. Generally, false starts, stutters, and fillers can be slightly edited in non-verbatim transcripts. However, this will depend on the project guidelines.

Choosing the Transcription Format

There a different types of transcription. The format that will work best for you will depend on your needs. Some common transcription formats include:

  • Verbatim transcription: This transcript is basically the written form of the audio or video recording capturing every sound made, including filler words, background noises, and even emotions like laughter, verbal pauses, etc.
  • Intelligent verbatim transcription: The transcript removes any fillers and repetitions from the speech during the editing process to ensure a more concise and readable transcript that retains the participants’ voice and context.
  • Phonetic transcription: The transcript notes the manner in which words are pronounced during speech using phonetic symbols.
  • Edited transcription: The full, accurate transcript is edited and formalized to enhance readability, succinctness, and clarity.

How to Transcribe an Interaction

In qualitative research, the actual statements of the recorded speech are given more focus than how they are spoken. The topic is an important feature, but the way it's delivered is also highly important.

It is important to learn how to analyze the data since it will determine the approach for the analysis and the associated research questions. In such situations, along with the statements, transcripts need to incorporate nonverbal cues and the speakers' body language as well to help the researchers analyze the data as accurately as possible.

Further Challenges in Transcription

If the interview recordings are in a different language, it is difficult for the scholars working on the research findings. Multilingual speakers understand the difficulties of translating a concept from one language to another. Qualitative researchers who use translated data must accurately state how interviews have been translated, along with at what point and how data analysis was conducted.

Some scholars believe that with the increasing dominance of digital media, there is no need for the transcription process anymore. However, video and audio transcription is still necessary and important in any analytic process. A written record of the recordings will allow you to go back to the data whenever you need to reflect on your findings and thoughts.

-Feature image source: Pexels

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About the Creator

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., overseeing client relations, human resources, and new business development to accomplish the company's mission and goals.

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