Transcription is part of many studies. Transcribing is often monotonous and a rather annoying job. We have some tips for you that will save you time and make your writing easier.

Areas of application of transcription

The term transcription (late Latin transcriptio “transcription”, Latin transcribere “rewrite”) has various uses. It exists on the one hand in genetics in the synthesis of RNA, on the other hand in linguistics. This linguistic transcription is used when we want to transcribe our produced sounds. There is even a fixed sign system, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In the following, however, we will deal with transcription as the process of scientific transcriptionalization of something spoken, such as an interview, a movie, a radio program, a speech, and much more. The finished transcribed text is called a transcript.

Transcribe in the study

In some degree programs transcribing is more common, in others less. Decisive here is the kind of scientific work. For example, if you opt for an expert interview, you will need to transcribe. Surveys by e-mail are also possible, but less common. Whether in person or by phone – you should always record your interview and then transcribe it.

You may also want to quote some passages from a movie for your housework and write down the words in a transcription. You may also be doing a radio broadcast to confirm the topicality of your topic, or you are analyzing a political speech. In any case, the inclusion of visual or auditory media is a small highlight of your work. It makes them more interesting and can supply current references.

Transcription: With these 10 tips it’s possible

Empirical work always involves a certain amount of effort. But it can be really worthwhile. Such works are usually not only easier and nicer to read, they also provide facts that arouse interest. Especially with major theses, it is worthwhile to include current facts. The effort is great anyway and you have more time to work on than a housework.

We’ve put together a number of tips for you that are primarily about transcribing audio formats. Particular attention is paid to interviews that you might need as part of a bachelor’s or master’s thesis.

Save time: quality goes before quantity

If you do not want to do a full study with many subjects, you can opt for one or more expert interviews. Here you should always keep in mind that it depends on the quality of the answers. Qualitative answers require qualitative questions. Prepare yourself well and ask precise questions that will be useful to you later in your work.

Avoid asking many unnecessary questions because you are not sure yet which ones you will need later. Be aware that you must transcribe them all. So good preparation can really pay off later by saving you a lot of time on your transcription.

Despite transcription: Best lead your interview personally

Many students want to avoid transcription by simply conducting a survey by e-mail. But our recommendation is: If you have the choice, always conduct your interview personally. In a personal meeting, more confidence is aroused than on the phone or by e-mail. Your interviewee will be more likely to reveal much of himself if he can get a good impression of you. So maybe even more private questions arise, which you can contribute later. In addition, questions in person or on the phone are certainly answered in more detail than by e-mail.

If the distance is too large, a telephone conversation is a good solution, because you can at least make direct queries. You’ll probably need to install a special app that can record phone calls. If you’re conducting a solid interview by email, it’s an eternal back and forth if you have any questions. Maybe the questions will not be answered as you imagined and you’ll have to do it again. So rather invest some transcription work than risk bad answers.

Proper handling of the recording device

A real dictation machine will probably gain the least students. However, it can be worthwhile if you often have to conduct interviews. However, any smartphone can be used to hold up to three people today. If you’re downloading an app, be sure to try it out first and familiarize yourself with all the ways it works.

Be sure to set your phone to flight mode while recording. Otherwise, you risk that the interview will be interrupted by a sudden call and your shot may be disrupted or canceled. Background noise should be hidden as much as possible. A noisy cafe on a main street is not such a good idea. Position your phone so that all parties can be well understood acoustically. If you are unsure, run a quick test before it starts.

Note extraspecific factors

In science, unlike journalism, it’s common for everything to be written down. This includes gestures, facial expressions, pitch, volume, dialects and so on. Depending on which research area you are in and what is relevant to your work, you should include some of these factors. For example, in a sarcastic statement, it may be important to write down gestures or facial expressions. Also throat clearing, long pauses or even laughter can be very important in the correct analysis.

In case of doubt, discuss with your supervisor how detailed you should proceed. In individual cases, however, also rely on your personal judgment. You have conducted the interview and can best assess what should be transcribed for proper understanding. If you merely refer to the facts of what has been said, then a simplified transcription is enough, in which you transcribe everything into High German with the correct punctuation.

Never underestimate the time required

In terms of time, it depends very much on how many extralinguistic factors you need to include. A complex linguistic transcription of one hour of spoken word can take up to five to ten hours to write down. Students often underestimate ‘typing’ and push it for a long time. But even if you restrict yourself to what has just been said, not only is typing time-consuming, but also rewinding, proofreading, and the subsequent structure and layout of your transcript can take an unexpectedly long time.

It’s usually best to get rid of the transcription of your interview as soon as possible. So you have everything in your head, have less pondering and save time. Even with other audio material, it is never wrong to deal with him through the transcription right at the beginning of intense. This benefits you throughout your work and prevents surprises in the end.

So you make order in your interview

To keep things organized, you first name important information in your transcript. This includes your name and the name of your interview partner, location, date, time and duration of the interview as well as information about your university and faculty.

For better orientation, you can set timestamps following a scheme. To do this, for example, after each paragraph, write the time in brackets in your audio file. This information is also called Timecode (TC) and is given as follows: 01:20:13 (Hours: Minutes: Seconds).

Think in advance, whether you want to anonymize your interviewee or not. In question are terms such as “Speaker 1” and “Speaker 2” or “I” for interviewers and “B” for respondents. In this case, you should briefly explain the abbreviations before the interview begins. Also lines can be very useful later, if you refer to your transcription in your work.

A foot pedal saves time when tapping

This tool is worthwhile for those who often need to transcribe. The so-called foot pedal for your PC saves you time by giving commands while typing. This way, you do not have to click through the reel or grab the mouse every time you go through your audio file. Stop and play it by stepping on the pedal like a sewing machine. It’s easy to connect to your computer with a USB cable. So your hands always stay on the keyboard and you stay focused. Such a foot pedal costs approximately between 10 and 100 euros.

Use common transcription tools

There are some software specifically for transcribing. They do not take away the transcription, but they can make you move faster and make it easier for you to do it. For example, they regulate the playback speed, you can use them to give commands through your keyboard, and some of them even jump back a bit when you pause the recording. So you always know exactly where you were. Common softwares are Express Scribe, Otranscribe and F4transcript.

If you are more adventurous, you can also approach a newer technology. The speech recognition program “Speechmatics” delivers good results especially in English – and in German it probably takes some typing from you. Even if there are still mistakes, you just have to correct them instead of typing everything yourself. Your audio files should have a pretty good quality for this program though. Practically, even the different voices are recognized and marked accordingly. The best way to do this is to do a simplified transcription that does not involve extra-linguistic factors.

Improve your typing skills

For those who have not yet learned the ten-finger system, it is high time in the study. You can save an incredible amount of time if you can type quickly without mistakes and without looking. There are Youtube tutorials or even courses at universities, with which you can learn the system very quickly. You will get used to it over time and it will pay off for any future typing.

The Emergency Plan: Get help from friends and family

If the absolute emergency occurs and you can not meet the deadline otherwise, you can have others transcribed for you. This is absolutely legal and saves you a lot of time. Ask friends or family members to help you, but be sure to check the transcription yourself at the end to correct any mistakes. There are even professional transcription professionals who can help you with money if the case arises.

However, help with transcription should never be planned from the outset. You are the one who should write and transcribe the work. On the one hand, it does not feel good if your work depends on the help of others, and on the other hand it helps if you have dealt intensively with your interview and can almost recite it in your sleep.