How To Transcribe Interviews

An interview does not end after the conversation.  After coming up with good, relevant questions, transcribing the interview is also a challenging part.  The challenge lies in the fact that this process requires keen listening skills, cautious and watchful editing and a pocketful of patience, so to speak. 

The whole process takes a little time and it all depends on how skilled you are in transcribing interviews and your typing speed.  A thirty-minute interview usually takes about two to four hours to transcribe.  You may take longer, making sure that you do not jeopardize the content of the original interview against the speed finishing your transcription.  You have to take care that the result will contain the accurate and original message of the interview.
Below are tips on how to transcribe interviews thoroughly.

  • You need a tape recorder with headphones and a foot pedal.  The foot pedal makes starting and stopping the tape easier.  If you don’t have a foot pedal, use the pause button but it takes longer since you have to take one hand away from the keyboard.
  • As soon as the conversation starts, begin typing.  Type until you can keep up.  Stop when you are already a word or two behind the speaker.  Keep in mind that on court hearings, they still use shorthand.  Some do it by listening to a sentence or two, then stopping the tape as they type the sentence(s).  Experiment until you discover what works best for you.  The key here is accuracy.  Getting everything on the first take means you will spend less time in editing and re-editing.
  • Some dialogues will be difficult to understand, especially if you are not familiar with the accent of the person.  Rewind and play until you made sense of the words.  If you still could not work it out, note down the counter number and go back.  There are times that you will get the message once you see the bigger picture.  Refrain from using another word aside from what you heard.  You can do this when editing grammar and content later.  Shorten the speakers’ names into their initials, then using a colon.  Example: CB: How long? DL: a year.  Use block paragraph formatting in typing, using spaces between dialogues.
  • After the first draft, listen to the whole tape again while reading your work.  If the texts don’t match with the tape, make corrections.  This time, check the problems you encounter.  If it's really impossible to work it out and it's a vital part, get in touch with the speaker to verify the information.  If it’s not possible, refer to your editorial guidelines and write down your nearest interpretation putting it inside parentheses to show it's your own words.  If you think the text is not important, strike it out of the draft or put an ellipse to show that there is a text here that was stricken out.  Take note that editing is very crucial.  Take out one word and it may change the whole message. 
  • You can now start editing the text, cleaning out punctuations and spelling out the abbreviated words.  Strike out those mannerisms or fillers such as uhm's and uh's and like if the interview is of factual substance, but you can leave some of it if the subject is more personal.  Spell-check your work.
  • You’re now ready to publish or put it together with another piece.  Sometimes, only parts of the interview will be used depending on the nature of the subject or theme if your interview is to become a part of a fuller piece.


Share this article!

Follow us!

Find more helpful articles: