Friday, December 21, 2012

How To: Recording and Transcribing Academic research interviews into word docs

Academic transcriptions can be classified into 3 types: Thesis, Dissertations and Lectures transcription. Academic transcription or AT are services that are tailor made for University faculty members and scholars. Recording interviews or discussions form the very heart of thesis process when it comes to collecting data. These interviews are then analyzed by first putting them into a typescript, and going the doc over and over again. Useful data is extracted and then merged into the research content.  Before converting the audio into text, the interviews have to be recorded and then typed out. Below is some information regarding how to transcribe audio

What is a Thesis Report? 

A dissertation or thesis report is a research document that a student candidate needs to submit as a part of their masters or doctorate program.  In preparation of a thesis, first a suitable topic needs to be decided. The topic can be an unproved statement or a view point which is adding substance to an existential finding.  Finding a suitable topic is usually the first hurdles that a person faces. There are many was to generate dissertation topics. Usually the best method is to consult lecturers and supervisors who are incharge of the research scholar. Libraries and archives of technical research can be consulted for better understanding of nature of topic.  Now days universities have digitized thesis archives and have made these available online.  Example of one such initiative is York University, where past research done by Computer Science (CS PHD) are available online for anyone to search.  

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Academic University Transcription

The next stage of preparing a thesis is to collect data and supporting facts. Data which can be classified into primary and secondary, is mined using archives, reference, libraries, surveys, market research and interviewing people related to that field. A PHD Theatre Art’s student at UK University, for example conduct audio interviews with technicians and theatrical play artists. Interviews are conducted with multiple speakers and then it is transcribed into text. The art student can then analyze the transcripts and extract data or findings which can then be used as a part of the final academic research report. 

For transcribing research interviews, students have the option to either hire a professional transcriptionist or they may transcribe it by themselves. However mostly hire a professional since the time that it takes to transcribe several hours of audio can be substantial. For example, a person with an avg typing speed of 50 wpm will take 8-9 hours to type a 1 hour digital mp3 audio. A transcriptionist can do the same work in 3 hours at a much higher accuracy rate with a typing speed of 110+ words per minute. 

How to Record an Interview for Dissertations?  

If those looking to record their first audio, either a one-to-one interview,speech,lecture etc. below is a list of steps that one can follow and get started:

Step 1: Purchase a decent quality voice recorder. Good voice recorders are available from $20 to $50. However expensive devices are available
Step 2: Device settings: Set the recording format to mp3 or wma. Avoid wav format due to its large audio size.
Step 3: Set the recording kbps to anywhere between 128 and 192. Anything higher is unnecessary.
Step 4: Invest in a 8gb or higher capacity memory card.
Step 5: Keep spare AA batteries.
Step 6: Incase there is an option to decide the recording location, choose one that is free from disturbances. Example a busy restaurant is not a conducive environment for recording a discussion.

You are ready to go!

Steps to Transcribe Audio

The first step is to hire an online transcriber. There are many transcription services that are available online. The USP’s of these companies vary on pricing and branding. Before hiring a service, students must first decide their budget. Some companies overcharge for their services, hence it’s a wise decision to spend some time researching for the number of transcription vendors available online. There are 7 important things to keep in mind when hiring a transcription service company, these are:

1. Transcripts should be accurate. Minimum suggested accuracy is 99.25 percent or more.
2. Transcribed audio should be well proofread and checked for errors.
3. Online ordering system via secured payment gateway such as Paypal.
4. File upload facility using Dropbox or Sendspace like services.
5. Rush transcriptions or a tat of 24 hours should be available.
6. No extra charges for Difficult audio, difficult accent, multiple speakers. (Canadian, British, America, Scottish and EU)
7. Transcription rates per minute of audio should be within the student’s budget.
8. Output transcript into any desired custom format or word doc such as PDF,MS-Word, Txt file etc.

The next step in transcribing is to send the recorded interview to the vendor using an online file transfer system such as a Dropbox or Sendspace account. It is highly recommended that the digital files should be recorded in Mp3 or WMA format so as to keep the audio file size small. Smaller size makes it easier and saves time when transferring the files from the clients end.   

Backend Transcription

The transcription process commences from here on. The transcriber will download the audio/video file and begin typing the audio into text. Usually the first draft is typed out. Following this the rough transcript is then proofread. Proofreading is done by other transcribers part of the team so as to improve accuracy. The final proofread transcripts are then compiled into a custom format as specified by the customer and them emailed. This ends the transcription process.

Pricing an Important Factor:  

Affordable rates is an important criteria for students when it comes to services. Transcription services charge on the type of transcription –i.e. General, legal or medical transcription. Since academic transcription falls under the category of general type of transcription, charges are usually made on a dollar per audio minute basis. For medical, per page, per line and per character basis are a more popular method of business pricing.  Pricing denomination varies from country to country. For example uk typing services prefer to charge in British pound. Where as a Canadian transcription service would probably charge in USD.  If you convert the pound rate per audio minute to us dollars, most UK Typing services turn out to be pricier than their American or Canadian counterparts.
Cheap transcription services at
Pocket friendly transcriptions services for students

What is the Right Price for Transcription Service?  

Generally speaking prices are turnaround dependant. Rush transcriptions cost the highest with prices start at US$2 per minute and going as high as US$5 per minute. If the audio quality contains background noises and hence is termed as difficult, students might have to shell out extra.
However there are transcription services whose prices are affordable and economical.  At transcription prices start at US$1.10 per minute for a 3 day turnaround. For quick super rush transcriptions, transcription charges are US$ 1.75 per minute of audio.

No extra charges for difficult audio, multiple speakers, timestamping services and verbatim transcripts.

Other Forms of Academic Transcription:  

Academicians may require other forms of transcription besides thesis and dissertations. These are discusses in detail below:

·        Lecture transcription services: Assistant lecturers, senior lecturers, college professors and even students may record lectures that are important to them. Instead of listening to the whole lecture from the beginning it is a better idea to get it transcribed into text. A verbatim lecture is quicker to read, analyze and extract data for referencing purpose. 

·       University Focus Groups:  Martin James, a student of London University, UK shares his opinion on FG transcription, “When we conduct a classroom discussion with multiple particants, not everone is able to remember what each of us said. Focus group verbatim transcripts are an excellent was of recalling accurately what who said what. We can then analyze the statements, extract information and useful data and present our topic in a better fashion.”

·        University Seminars: Inter college seminars, Business Seminar, special events etc are held in colleges at regular periods. The minutes of meetings or the entire seminar may be transcribed for archival purposes.

About the Author

John Wayne is a senior typist working with a US Based transcription service company called transcription services. Mr. John has a rich experience of 4 years under his belt. Having transcribed over hundred of audios, video documentaries, interview, podcast radio episodes, teleseminars etc. he feels the most important thing in typing is accuracy. 


An online transcription company that has recently expanded its services to the UK and Canada. Customers can now enjoy typing services at much lower rates compared to other vendors out there.   Typing services in UK and Canada were introduced in the month of September,2012 with an aim to cater to this part of the world. Also the company is now focusing on providing affordable and cheap transcription service to UK universities such as University of Warwick, Durham Univ, Lancaster University, University of Liverpool and Manchester University.