Outsourcing Transcription of Research Interviews

Nov 11, 2009 | Qualitative Research, Transcription | 0 comments

When planning to outsource the transcription of your research
interviews it may be a good idea to invest some time in writing out a clear set of instructions for your transcriptionist because research transcription is quite different from regular transcription. Here are a few points to get you started –

Identify the Transcription Style

In research interviews the HOW of what’s being said is almost as important as the WHAT. For this reason the preferred style of transcription for these interviews is Verbatim Transcription. This style involves typing out everything that’s recorded on the interview including –

  • Fillers (the ums, ahs, you knows, etc.)
  • False starts, i.e. sentences that are started but then changed to something else (For e.g., “I think that would be…I’d say that’s something important”).
  • Repeated words/phrases (e.g., “in that case, in that case the methodology would differ”)
  • Non-verbal communication (such as laughter, long pauses, coughing, etc.)
  • Other observations from the recording such as side conversations, over talking, interruptions, people walking in or out, etc.

The alternative style of transcription is Intelligent Verbatim. This style is usually not used in research transcription as it involves editing out some part of the text.

Provide Formatting Guidelines

If everything on a recording is typed out in a single chunk of text, it would be impossible to decipher anything of value from the transcript. And you as the end-user of the transcript would end up spending hours trying to figure out where one speaker stopped and the next one began speaking! To avoid this, provide some basic guidelines to your transcriptionist, such as –

Speaker Identification

The initials/first name/full name can be mentioned each time the speaker changes. This can also be marked in bold for easy identification.

The speech of the interviewer and interviewee/s can also be differentiated by using italicized text for one of them.

Time Stamping

A 100% accurate transcript is a myth. No matter how skilled a transcriptionist, there would always be some words that are unclear or inaudible on a recording. These should be time stamped [hh:mm] or [hh:mm:ss] and highlighted for easy identification while editing. You can then quickly play just that portion of the recording and make the necessary corrections when reviewing the transcript.

Time Coding

If you intend to use the transcripts with a software like NVivo, you would want the transcript time coded (every 20 seconds, 1 minute, etc.) and formatted in a style appropriate for the software.

Other customized formatting

Some people like to add customized formatting such as –

‘…’ for short pauses

[duration] for long pauses

/ for one speaker finishing of a sentence started by another, etc.

These instructions should be clearly documented and shared with the transcriptionist before beginning transcription.

Test Accuracy

Accuracy of course is crucial in research transcription (a minimum of 98.5%). To find out how accurate your transcripts are going to be, it’s a good idea to ask your transcriptionist to complete one interview as a test. Most transcription companies charge for samples and you may have to invest a small amount in testing the skills of several service providers. But in the long run this would pay off in terms of both time and money spent on getting the transcripts proofed by someone else.

Research Prices

Most transcription companies offer discounts on research transcription that can be availed by providing a copy of a college ID card or other documents that prove that you’re a student.

That said, research transcription does require considerably more effort as compared to other styles of transcription. As such, transcription rates for research interviews normally range between $60.00 – $90.00 per audio hour. The cost can vary depending on several factors (including where you’re outsourcing to). It’s a good idea to ask for a quote from several service providers to compare prices.

Discuss Confidentiality

Be sure to ask the service provider to provide a signed NDA that clearly states that the material (interviews as well as transcripts) will be kept confidential and deleted at the end of the project. Most good transcription companies provide these options proactively, but it’s still a good idea to outline (and document) your requirements before beginning work.

Review Often

If you choose the services of a new transcription company (or one you’re hiring for the first time), it would be a good idea to review the transcripts periodically rather than waiting till all the interviews have been transcribed.

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