Transcriptions – what are they and when are they needed?
When interviewing one or more people, a voice recorder is usually used – taking notes at the same time requires divisive attention, and it is not always possible to write down all the valuable information. Later, however, it is difficult to rely only on the recording, especially if it is of poor quality. This is where the transcript comes into play, tasked with transcribing.
It is a text based on an audio recording. It is often accompanied by an image, which greatly facilitates the work of transcribers. The transcriptions are divided into:
- standard (smoothed);
- full (also known as literal);
The former are designed to faithfully translate sound into text, but without repetition, interjections, hesitations or non-verbal behavior (e.g. grunts). Their task is therefore to preserve the general sense of the statement. The person performing the transcriptions corrects syntax or grammatical errors of the respondents. The text should appear transparent so that it can be easily read afterwards.
When it comes to full texts, the sentences you say are transcribed very accurately, in other words, word for word. These transcriptions include all repetitions as well as the behaviors and noises heard during interviews – both from the interlocutors (e.g. laughter, crying, long pause) and from outside (e.g. the sound of a siren in the street). Even if people express themselves incoherently, start a sentence but do not finish it, or consider something invalid and do not complete the story, it cannot be omitted from the text.
When are professional transcripts commissioned?
Of course, it would seem that each contractor can listen to the audio file on its own and create a text based on it. Contrary to appearances, it is not that simple. Even if the source content is short and of good quality, you should still remember to make punctuation corrections. This in turn means additional time investment.
Professional companies providing this type of services have qualified staff with appropriate equipment and work tools. Each transcriber is equipped with good on-ear headphones that muffle outside noise (e.g. what is happening outside the window or in the next room).
Specialized software that makes work easier turns out to be necessary: text editors, specific forms, programs that ensure the continuity of writing without the need for a cursor, and constant access to the Internet.
- the source content is in a foreign language – such transcriptions are taken over by people who speak fluent in the language used in the recording. In this case, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the translation agency’s offer, which often involves transforming audio into text form;
- The audio file is of poor quality – daily bread for rewriters. The unsatisfactory recording quality most often results from the use of a weak voice recorder. The voices disappear, it is impossible to distinguish the words, the volume of the recording changes, so that the transcriber has to listen to them several times;
- disturbances make it difficult to pick up individual statements – this applies to situations where the interview is conducted in a public place, e.g. in a cafe, bar, park;
- the recorded person speaks very quickly or indistinctly – sometimes respondents speak fast by nature, making their sentences sound like a single cluster of words. The incomprehensible speech of the interlocutor is a real nightmare even for a transcription specialist. In both cases, the work takes a long time as it comes down to questioning the same fragment of an interview multiple times.
Transcriptions and industries in which they are most often used
Transcription companies and people involved in this activity meet the expectations of all clients, providing each of them with an individual approach and execution of the order at the highest level. As in any field, there are also certain standards here. Who uses transcription the most?
In the foreground, research institutions dealing with public opinion research should be mentioned. They organize meetings with people of different demographic cross-section. Interviews can be individual or group (focus). Market research covers various topics: consumer, social, political, etc. Each meeting requires a summary in the form of a report for further statistical analysis. Hence the necessity to record conversations and then translate them into text. It is easier to make a report based on what is in front of your eyes than listening to the conversation several times.
Transcription services are more and more appreciated by students who are at the stage of writing a thesis. The hypothesis contained in it requires verification. It must be supported by various research methods, which include, inter alia, interview. Young people, mainly due to lack of time, turn to external companies with a request to make a transcription, which will be helpful in completing the work.