Transcription Tips Part 1: Leveraging Technology
My wife is a grad student in social work. She’s been doing a lot of transcribing lately. I feel her pain. I’ll be posting tips on how to ease some of this. Topics will include technology, interpreting audio, and “file management stuff.”
I have found that three technologies can especially improve the work of transcription. Plus, there’s a bonus for data collection
- For handling your audio files, I recommend a program like Express Scribe. Gone are the days of Alt+Tab to switch between Windows Media Player and MS Word every few seconds. Talk about pain! Plus, it’s free. This program has several other advantages. My favorite is the ability to set hotkeys for playback, especially for the 5-second rewind (or whatever interval you choose). Another is the ability to play with speed setting without turning people into chipmunks or Megatron.
- Express Scribe also allows you to use transcription foot pedals or DIY foot pedals, such as for driving video games. I own professional pedals, but haven’t gotten the hang of them yet. My wife and others I know swear by them. Part of my hang up is coordination, the other is a little bit of leg cramping from not knowing what I’m doing.
- Many people are interested in using voice recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe, but are unsure how to do it. The basic procedure here is to listen to the audio with your headset and to stop every few phrases, “parroting” what you hear back into the mic. In other words, it doesn’t transcribe for you, but it reduces the physical and mental burdens of transcription. I use Dragon regularly for recording notes or other thoughts and have been experimenting with this process in transcription. So far, it’s working just fine. Dragon learns to improve its accuracy based upon what you tend to write and how you speak. Right now, I’m about 20% faster than typing a transcript, and I don’t need a hot stone massage afterwards. There’s a discount for students/educators, and I highly recommend trying out the full version (you can return it afterwards). Don’t bother with the free iPad app — the accuracy is not at all comparable.
- Finally, a bonus technology for data collection… recording phone calls. It’s easy to forget that some conversations can be had over the phone. For some studies, you aren’t losing much by do this. Speaker phone can come out pretty yucky. The solution is at Radio Shack — just tell the clerk that you want to record phone calls and you’ll be talked through the options. All of them are cheap. Right now, I’m using an ear bud style mic. It’s not as clear as the old school landline mic, but it’s much more sensible for today’s interviewing, which might take place via cell phone, landline, or computer headset.