Transcriptions are an integral part of the research because they provide a written record of the audio from your interviews and focus groups. However, without the right tools, they can be VERY time-consuming. The two biggest tips I can give you are: make the cleanest recording you can and use a transcription program to help you. Here’s how:
Find a quiet space, and have multiple recorders going. Don’t record in a coffee shop or a place that echoes. Any place with a lot of background noise will give you the transcription from Hell because it’ll be hard to hear what your interviewee is saying. For a typical interview or focus group session, I usually have at least two recorders going at the same time. I’ll use my iPhone, my computer, a recorder, and when possible, a microphone. For focus groups, I’ll put the recorders in different parts of the room. I prefer to video record when possible as well so that I can see facial expression and body language. However, to be able to visually record, you need to check with your interviewees and your RSRB to make sure you have permission. Even with audio, please ask your interviewee before you record.
CLAP before you record your metadata. If you are recording video, do this in front of the camera. This will cause a spike in your audio files, and it will make syncing all your files together MUCH easier.
ALWAYS record metadata. You can start with something like this:
Today is (date), we are doing a focus group interview at (location), it is (time), and with me are: (ask each person to say their name clearly, and give a brief intro that will help you identify their voice and name on the recorder)
Take fieldnotes when you can. Although this will depend on the nature of your interview. If I’m doing focus groups, I will have my computer up, typing notes as people respond to interview questions. This is because when I type my notes, people actually pay less attention to me, and more attention to the others in the room – which is what I want.
However, if I’m interviewing one-on-one, it will depend on who I’m interviewing. Sometimes, having a computer or notebook up may make the interviewee uncomfortable, and you won’t get spontaneous responses. It will really depend on the situation. If you’re in a situation where you can’t take notes during the interview, then make sure you jot things down as soon as you can – so that your memories are fresh.
When the recordings are finished, sync all the files using an audio editor program, such as Garageband or Camtasia. Remember to line up your “clap spikes,” so that all your audio is synced. These editor programs are REALLY useful for taking out background noise, too!
Import your edited file into a transcription program. I swear by Inqscribe, which I love because everything is in one program, you can speed or slow the recording, control the start and stop with the tab button (instead of a foot pedal), and you can tag your file with timestamps (see below). ALWAYS tag your file with timestamps.
Make time: It will take about an hour to transcribe 15 minutes of audio (from a clean recording). I transcribe in blocks of time – because you will burn out after a few hours!
Tag your file with timestamps.
Save time on the first pass through: Depending on the purpose of your transcription, sometimes you can just paraphrase and timestamp, while relying on field notes. Timestamps will allow you to go back into your file and quickly get to where you need. I timestamp periodicially – especially before important things have been said. Also, if something is inaudible, just type “inaudible” in your transcription to save time and move on.
Later, if you are doing discourse analysis, you can go back slowly over everything to include the transcription notation (transcriptions may take several passes – depending on how you will analyze these data).
Add dates to your file names
Label your files with the interview date (ie. 19Sep16 – Gidget Interview). Also, if you can (some places allow for this), a description of the interview – ie. who was interviewed, where, and what it was about. Keep these data files in a place that is secure. Personally, I do not use Google for confidential data. Instead, I use a Box account through my university which insures privacy and security.