Thesis Tips/Tricks Part 2: Transcribing is Hard

This is part 2 of my sporadic series of thesis/essay tips advice — here’s the link to part one of the series


I’ve been working on my thesis a lot lately. I’m transcribing the interviews I did this summer and boy oh boy is it rough. If you’re unfamiliar transcribing entails listening to something and then retyping/writing it. My interviews are only 45 minutes, but typing them out takes about 3 hours each. I find that the most challenging aspect of transcribing is being able to follow the conversation and type fast enough.

If you’re in the business of transcribing, there’s a lot of videos/articles on how to transcribe with Youtube and Google Docs,but I haven’t found these to be really effective. Since you’re relying on this free technology to identify the words, it becomes challenging to get clear transcriptions if the person has an accent, uses slang, or the sound is muffled. And then I tried just using Microsoft word and just listening to the recording, but with iTunes, I didn’t have enough control to slow the audio down and there’s a lack of precision in going back or forwards.

How I’ve Been Transcribing

There are options to have other people transcribe text that you send to them, but I don’t have the funds for that and I want to be confidential with my interviews as I promised to my research participants.

After a bunch of googling, I discovered this website called Transcribe (#notsponsored #ipaidforitonmyown #butyoiftheywannasponsormehitmeup). It’s an app that exists in your web browser. You can upload the audio, control the settings, create a loop of the audio, and type within the browser.

Compared to the other transcription services, it’s not actually priced that bad. I think it’s 20 bucks for a yearlong license, since I’m in anthropology I imagine I’ll get my money’s worth.

Here are some of my favorite features:

Image below: You can create templates of words — I use shorter words and then it will put the full word into the transcription. 

Image below: You can create a loop where the text plays and then pauses and then loops. It’s helpful if you’re a slow typer like me.

The UI of the website isn’t anything incredible, but it gets the job done. While you’re transcribing your interview/etc., you can also insert insert time stamps. This has been really helpful for me when my research participants say something especially profound or relevant to my research. I can really easily make a note of it for later.

When I finish transcribing (usually I end up with ~5,000 words for a 45 minute interview), I copy and paste my interview into a google doc. Once it’s there, I find and replace the I and P (which I use to designate interviewer and participant) to the initials of myself and the interviewee.

That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for my thesis interview transcriptions! I hope this post was helpful 🙂

How are you transcribing/managing your theses and projects? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @noireandco

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