What are the best tools for transcribing interviews?
March 15, 2013 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I am doing a qualitative dissertation, where I'll be conducting and transcribing about 80 interviews that are each an hour long or so. What tools do I need to make transcription easy?

I would like to buy two to four things:
- A headset with a microphone; ideally wireless
- A foot pedal for transcription
- Software to make transcription easier (possibly)
- Software to record Skype calls (possibly - I currently use Pandora and am happy with it, but is there something better out there?)

I have a PC and a Mac, but will probably use my PC for this. My PC runs Windows 7; my Macbook Air runs 10.6.8.

I'd like to spend less than $150 or $200 on the hardware.

I've used Audacity in the past, which has worked out well, but is there another, better, paid software package for transcription that I should consider? I am also purchasing NVivo, but that's for the data analysis - is there software for transcribing that I should buy, too? Since the price of software varies so much, I guess that I'd also put a $200 pricetag on this - but I am willing to go higher if necessary. Or, does the footpedal come with software; if so, what is the best footpedal with the best software for transcribing?

I plan to just type everything out in Microsoft Word as I transcribe, which I've done in the past - but I'm willing to look into a different workflow if that seems like a good idea.

Also, I enjoy doing transcription - and feel like it gets me closer to my data - which is why I am not considering hiring a transcriptionist to do this for me.
posted by k8lin to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might want to look at ExpressScribe or Inqscribe for the software, just to see if they might service you better than Audacity. (I haven't played with Audacity so I don't know how it compares.)

If you wanted to get hardcore about something that would combine your transcription and data analysis need, you could also take a peek at Transana.

Can't help with the footpedal, alas - I've personally found that it's easier for me to just get comfy with the keyboard shortcuts built into transcription software to pause, change speed, jump back 30 seconds, or whatever, and work entirely by hand. Just personal preference, really.

You'll help yourself a lot up front if you haven't done the interviews yet, if you invest some of your money in a good quality recording setup and make sure that you find quiet places to do the interviews. A nice clear audio recording makes your life a lot easier; the best software in the world can only do so much if you're working with bad audio quality.
posted by Stacey at 1:05 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

In my oral histories I had to do for graduate school, I used my iPhone mic app, Audacity to convert the file to something usable and ExpressScribe to stop and start the playback for transcription.

Seconding the quiet space and adding in try to remember to not talk over your subject. Particularly with agreeing noises like "Yeah" "Uhuh" and laughter. After transcript a few dozen hours I wanted to kill myself because I kept agreeing with the speaker and drowning out what they were saying. Plus it sucks to repeatly type "Teleri : Yeah."
posted by teleri025 at 1:17 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions re: quiet space and interrupting. I've conducted a lot of interviews, and have that part down - it's really the hardware and software part that I'm interested in at this point.
posted by k8lin at 1:23 PM on March 15, 2013

Best answer: I upgraded from minidisc player and Microsoft Word to ExpressScribe for playback and transcription between my master's and doctoral projects and found it much faster and more pleasant. Like Stacey, I also found that assigning hotkeys for the controls was easier (and cheaper) than springing for a footpedal. Nonetheless, ExpressScribe has some recommended options for footpedals.

Skype's own Pamela plugin works well for recording calls, although Audacity has also served me just fine for the same purpose.
posted by dr. boludo at 2:58 PM on March 15, 2013

ExpressScribe made doing a pile of transcriptions so much easier for me. Didn't use a pedeal, just the hot keys, which I got used to very quickly.
posted by futureisunwritten at 3:57 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have recently transcribed intereviews for my MA, and wanted a transcription machine like the one I used to use when working at Hansard... but they were too expensive.

I tried voice recognition software but it didn't work because it would only work with my own voice, and reading it out aloud was slower than typing for me.

So I made my own transcriber foot pedal by purchasing a copy of xpadder which is a simple little program designed so PC gamers can map their keyboard onto a usb game console even when the game only has keyboard.

I stole my son's USB console, and mapped the buttons to the mp3 player stop and start buttons, and used the gaming console as a foot pedal so I could start and stop the mp3 recording without taking my fingers off the keyboard. THis worked really well.

My only regret was not buying a 10$ foot pedal for a racing game, and map to that instead, which would have been easier to use as a foot pedal.. because that is what it is!! But I can't attest to whether the foot pedal and xpadder are compatible -- they have a compatibility list!
posted by chapps at 6:44 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Express scribe is free and , headphones aside, is all you need.

Just a side note, its a lot of work. An experienced transcriber with a typing speed of 80wpm will take approximately 4-5 hours of real time per hour of audio to complete the work. This means working full time, 35-40 hours a week, this amount of transcription will take a solid 10 weeks to complete. To pay a transcriber, budget around 5k.
posted by molloy at 7:52 AM on March 16, 2013

Colleague swears by using voice recognition like Dragon. Listen, hit pause, repeat phrase into the mic, repeat. Works well once trained. Saves on the RSI.
posted by Gotanda at 12:00 AM on March 19, 2013

Response by poster: Update: I got some good headphones with a quality mic and an Infinity Foot Control pedal. I've tested the foot pedal out with a few interviews (not my own) and I am really happy with it. I'm using ExpressScribe and it's OK - not perfect, but it does the job.
posted by k8lin at 11:23 PM on March 24, 2013

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