How to Transcribe an Interview

Wondering how to transcribe an interview? It’s actually easier than you might think. Read this article to know the exact steps you can take to get started.

Being able to transcribe interviews accurately and efficiently is a great skill to have and one that is likely to come in useful in a number of different scenarios. You might be a beginner transcriber just starting out in a new transcription job, or you might be transcribing an interview for your own academic research, market research, or journalistic purposes.

Whatever your reasoning is, the tips and tricks listed in this article will help you to make the process much easier and more efficient.

Transcription is an ever-growing industry and one that gives a multitude of people all over the world the opportunity to earn some extra cash on the side or to replace their regular income entirely. So, now is as good a time as any to get started with building your transcription skills and getting familiar with the many different types of transcription to maximize your employability and add to your skillset.

Transcribing interviews is a great way to start out with transcription work because, generally, interviews are well structured and have clearly defined speakers, making them some of the less complex transcription assignments.  

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How to Transcribe an Interview Step-by-Step

Here, we’re going to run you through a step-by-step guide specifically for transcribing interviews, from choosing the most appropriate transcription style and format, to the tools and equipment that can make this task much easier and more time-effective.

Step 1: Listen to the Entire File Once Through

First things first, it is important to familiarize yourself with the audio file.

Now, if you’re working with an exceptionally long interview file, you might not want to listen to it in its entirety prior to carrying out the transcription; this could prove extremely time-consuming and inefficient.

But, we do recommend listening to at least the first few minutes of the file so that you can understand how many speakers you are dealing with and the clarity and overall content of the interview. This will make it much easier to decide what type of transcription to use and how best to format your transcript for optimal clarity and readability.

Step 2: Choose a Transcription Style

Next, you’ll need to decide which transcription style will be most appropriate for this specific interview file. There are three main types of transcription that you can choose from: verbatim, edited, and intelligent, although there is also a good level of flexibility within these and you do have the option of combining elements of different styles to find a format and approach that works best for the specific assignment or task.

When choosing a transcription style, you will need to consider a few different factors.

Firstly, who is going to be reading the transcript? Is it purely for your own use, or will it be shared with colleagues or clients?

If you are the only person that will read the transcript, you have a little more freedom when it comes to the transcription style because you are likely to already have a basic understanding of the meaning and implications of the audio, so edited transcription may be sufficient here. However, if other people are going to be using the transcript, they may require more contextual information to fully understand the scenario, so verbatim transcription may be more suitable.

Secondly, what kind of interview are you transcribing: a job interview, a police interview, a primary research interview, or a more informal interview? Legal documents have certain reliability requirements, so verbatim transcripts are most appropriate here, whereas journalistic interviews need to be more readable and easy to understand, so these are better suited to edited or intelligent transcription.

Finally, consider the purpose of the transcript. Is it going to be used in a business setting? Or perhaps the transcript will be used within legal proceedings. Whatever purpose the transcript is needed for, it’s important that you allow this to inform your transcription style.

If you are unsure what type of transcription should be used, we recommend going with the edited transcription style, which removes any deviations from the main textual content but does not change the text itself and keeps any relevant interjections.

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Step 3: Pick a Format and Stick to It

Next up, you will need to decide how you are going to format your transcript. You might be using a template or pre-established framework, in which case your format may already be decided. Otherwise, you will need to decide how you are going to layout your transcript, how to identify different speakers, interjections, pauses, or breaks within the text.

It’s important that you choose a format that is clear, particularly if the transcript is to be shared with and used by others, and it is also extremely important that you are consistent with your formatting. If your format or layout changes throughout the transcript, you’re going to be left with a very confusing and hard-to-read document.

Including a key at the start of your transcript is always a good idea, particularly when transcribing interviews which are almost certain to include multiple speakers. The key enables you to introduce the different speakers and explain how they will be identified within the transcript.

Step 4: Set up Your Playback Software

Now that you have your format and transcription style established, it’s time to set up the audio file. You can use any playback software that you like, so long as it is easily navigable and has simple playback functions since you’re going to need to pause, play and rewind consistently throughout the transcription process.

There are lots of great transcription software programs available that can make this process super easy, but regular audio playback programs will work too.

If you can, it may be a good idea to set up keyboard shortcuts that enable you to pause and play the file easily without having to navigate between programs on your computer. This can make the transcription process much more efficient.

Step 5: Start Transcribing

Now it’s time to open your blank document or word processor and begin transcribing the audio file. If you’re new to transcription or are not an especially skilled typist, you might want to complete a rough initial draft to start off with and then go back in and tidy things up afterward. This can be a good way of speeding up the process and ensuring that you are getting all of the detail that you need into the transcript.

If you’re working with a large file, we recommend splitting it into chunks of around ten to fifteen minutes and working through each section. In your rough draft, add timestamps to each section so that it is easier to pick up where you left off and you don’t have to search through the entire audio file for one specific section.

Once you have completed your first draft, restart the audio file and work through once more to correct any mistakes, check the formatting and add in any missed details.

Step 6: Edit the Transcript

When you’re happy with the transcript, work through to ensure that the format is correct and there are no spelling mistakes or errors.

If you’re using intelligent transcription, now is the time to check for grammatical correctness and ensure each phrase or sentence is readable and easy to understand.

If you’re using edited or verbatim transcription, check that your style is consistent, for example, if you are using brackets to identify background noises, ensure this is done throughout the entire transcript to avoid confusion and to keep things cohesive.

Step 7: Review the Transcript

Finally, proofread your transcript once more to ensure everything is correct and you’re happy with the overall clarity of the document. Make any final edits if necessary and your transcript should be good to go!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we have listed some frequently asked questions around interview transcription, providing some tips and advice on how to make the process even more efficient as well as some other basic info for new transcribers.

How Long Does it Take to Transcribe Audio Files?

On average, it is said to take around four minutes to transcribe one minute of audio content. So, for a fifteen-minute interview, you will need to set aside around an hour for transcription. It’s important to note, though, that this is simply for the actual transcription itself. You will also need to account for the time spent choosing your style and format, and editing and proofreading your transcript.

Bear in mind that the transcription time is likely to fluctuate depending on your own skill level, the quality and content of the audio file, and the transcription style you are using. Typically, intelligent transcription will take a little longer as the transcriber is required to edit and paraphrase for clarity and readability.

Are There Any Ways to Make Transcription Easier?

Investing in some good-quality equipment can significantly increase the speed of the transcription process. Most transcribers will use a foot pedal which lets them control the audio file without having to stop typing or use their hands at all. Transcription foot pedals let you pause, play, rewind and fast-forward audio files using your foot and can seriously improve your efficiency.

A good headset or pair of headphones will also make it much easier to hear the audio file clearly and will remove any background noises that may be interfering with your concentration or focus.

An ergonomic keyboard is by no means a necessity, but it may help you to type more comfortably and for longer periods of time.

Finally, you can improve your typing speed and, in turn, increase your transcription skills by completing regular typing tests and training sessions. You can find a huge number of these free programs online.

Can I Get Paid to Transcribe Audio Files?

Yes! There are lots of people getting paid for their transcription skills. It is a super popular way of earning some extra money and for lots of people, it is lucrative enough to become their sole source of income.

There are lots of transcription platforms or freelancer sites online where remote workers can find transcription work. From entry-level to expert jobs, there is something for everyone, regardless of experience or skill level.

Final Thoughts on How to Transcribe an Interview

This step-by-step guide on how to transcribe an interview should provide you with all the information you need to get started on your transcription journey and efficiently and accurately transcribe any interview documents that you need.

If you’re looking to take your transcription career more seriously, you might also consider investing in some of the tools and equipment listed in the FAQ section of this article to up your game and increase your efficiency significantly. 

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