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What exactly is a transcription?

Transcription is the written transmission of conversations. Since interviews or group discussions are often conducted and recorded in qualitative research, transcription plays an important role in the study of the subject. Almost every student has contact with transcription, at the latest for the bachelor or master thesis, because as a basis for analysis you need audio recordings, for example in written form.

What forms of transcription are there?

In practice, a distinction is usually made between two forms of transcription: Between the literal and the smooth transcription.

The verbatim transcription

Try to imagine what it would look like to put a conversation word for word on paper. For many people, this would look quite strange because in normal conversations people stutter, repeat, and speak colloquially. The literal transcription aims at exactly that: to capture the way something is said. The way interjections, repetitions, interrupted words, dialects, colloquial language, etc. are represented depends on the context and the specifications.

An example of a verbatim transcription:

Interviewer: How old are you?

Interviewee: Um, I am 30 years old.

Interviewer: All right, all right. And, um, where do you currently live?

Interviewee: I live in Sp/Berlin at the moment. (…) But I also lived in Cologne once.

Since people often don't speak grammatically correct and spoken sentences are often long, reading literal transcriptions is much more tedious. However, it can be better analyzed, for example, whether someone has doubts or is telling the truth. In many cases a literal transcription is required, for example in psychology or in a legal context.

The smoothed transcription

The smoothed transcription aims at the content of a conversation. Interjections, repetitions, aborted words, etc. are ignored. The transcriber writes the conversation as grammatically correct as possible to make the text easy to read. A smoothed transcription perfectly reflects the content of a conversation, but not the way something is said. Again, the rules for transcription depend on the context and the specifications.

An example of a smoothed transcription:

Interviewer: How old are you?

Interviewee: I am 30 years old.

Interviewer: And where do you currently live?

Interviewee: I currently live in Berlin. But I also lived in Cologne once.

This type of transcription is useful when the content of an interview is more relevant than the context, such as in interviews to be published.

What are the possibilities of transcribing?

Even though there is the option of simply giving the audio or video recordings to transcription offices, students usually transcribe them themselves for cost reasons. A huge advantage, apart from saving money, is that by transcribing the audio or video recordings yourself, you get a good start in research. It is a helpful step to become familiar with the content of what is being said. Every time you listen to the audio recordings, you are already subconsciously carrying out a large part of your analysis. You understand exactly what the speakers mean, know the content of the conversation better and save valuable time during the analysis itself. However, transmitting conversations in writing also means staring at the monitor for hours.

In this way, it can take six hours or more to type in an audio lesson. The transcript then comprises 20 to 35 A4 pages. If you interviewed ten people for one hour each, it would take up to 60 hours to type it in.

Transcription hardware

Professional transcriptionists usually work with transcription hardware in the form of good headphones and foot pedals. Foot pedals make it easier to play and stop audio files while you continue typing with your hands. This helps to get into a workflow more easily. If you need to transcribe regularly, it's definitely worth the investment! It is also advisable to always transcribe with headphones so that you can understand even unclearly spoken words.

Transcription software

There is also transcription software that can be divided into two different categories: Software without and software with automatic speech recognition.

Software’s without automatic speech recognition can be used to play the audio files faster or slower by abbreviations in a handy editor or to repeat the last seconds. In most cases, time codes or speakers can be inserted in this way. Do not underestimate how often a recording has to be played and paused for transcription. Shortcuts can save a lot of time, but you will not be spared the typing itself and they are many companies they provide assignment help uk and many other services.


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