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Recording & Transcribing Interviews

This post was originally published at the PhD Life blog on the 4th of Sep 2012, see here for the comments on this post.

This past week I’ve been busy conducting interviews and transcribing them, so I thought I’d share my experience and ask you to share yours! 🙂

Recording interviews

I use a digital recorder to record interviews as well as an app on the iPhone called iTalk which was recommended by some fellow PhD students. The iTalk app brings out the best quality of recording for me and it is very convenient as it is linked to my Dropbox and can therefore upload the file on to Dropbox with one click of a button (however doesn’t work with very large files). There is a Lite version of the app which you can try for free, and the full version is around £1.50. This is working fine for me and the recording quality is excellent especially in comparison to the digital voice recorder I have (I do record the interviews on both just in case). However, I will probably need a much more sophisticated digital recorder when I decide to record a focus group.

Which device/app do you use to record interviews?

Transcribing Interviews


I am using Express Scribe Pro(FREE!) to re-play my recordings and it is working fantastically for me. You can set the audio speed to a lower speed (mine is set at 59%) and set to ‘play the audio with pauses’, which automatically pauses the audio every couple of seconds and it means you can transcribe the audio without ever having to click pause (and without the need for a foot pedall). Transcription for a one hour recording takes professional transcribers at least 6 hours to transcribe. Rebecca Hauge (who I met through Twitter) mentioned onher blog that she uses Dragon Dictate alongside Express Scribe Pro to transcribe interviews, which cuts the transcription time by half (3 hours of transcription for 1 hour of recording), to quote her:

Second, I use Dragon Dictate(I’m on a Mac, it is Dragon Naturally Speakingon PC) to transcribe the text. If you are buying it, I highly recommend the physical shipment, as you get a good quality headset that is designed to work well with Dragon.

The trick to this is not to input the audio into Dragon, which gets mixed reviews for effectiveness, but rather to re-speak the transcribed text. I listen to the audio file in my headphones, then repeat exactly what is said into the microphone at a pace that is optimal for Dragon Dictate. The pace is slightly slower than normal talking, but not much. The more important part is to pace your words, speak clearly, and speak your punctuation. Dragon then types it out. I proofread as I go along, and correct any errors.

Seems like a great idea in theory. However, Dragon software is not available at the University (yet) and it isn’t a cheap software to buy.

So how do transcribe your interviews/focus groups etc? Have you ever outsourced the transcription work?

Published in PhD Life Research Methods


    • Salma Patel Salma Patel

      Thanks Yvonne. I used Dragon Dictate with Express Scribe and it worked really well once Dragon got used to my accent. I didn’t know NVivo had internal transcribing features, I might try that out. But to be honest, I don’t think I’ll need to go back to the audio once I’ve transcribed it. Lets see how it goes 🙂

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