Limitations in Interview Transcription

Limitatioins on Interview TranscriptionInterview Transcription Prone To Errors Due To Certain Limitations by Ritesh Sanghani

Interview transcription looks quite simple but in real life, it is very a complex and an intricate task. It should be noted that mainstream semi-structured and structured interviews necessitate a comprehensive transcription that needs to be accessible by the interviewee to scrutinize for respondent authentication.

Sociolinguistic research being the exception to the rule wherein the transcription needs to be understood from speech to print. It should be transformed in a manner that satisfies the interviewer and interviewee.

Interview Transcription Considerations:

Transcriptionists need to artificially augment the language for lucidity and suitability. It is significant to take note that ethics should be taken into consideration while conducting transcription validation and understanding the requirements of the respondents. There has been a lot of debate on types of interview, questionnaire design, benefits and limitations of audio recording, but the very insignificant proportion has been written about transcribing the interview.

According to Holstein and Gubrium, 1995, p.78, “If conceivable the research needs to be taken into consideration for audio or videotape interviews. The tapes can be used after for transcription for close scrutinization. There is nothing mentioned about whether the transcription of an interview from spoken to written word can be problematic.

According to Rubin and Rubin, 1995, p86, “It is very significant to note how transcription was developed and how the transcriptions were substantiated. It should also be noted that transcription should integrate pauses and other non-verbal hints of what happened. If the transcriptions are in final revised drafts of the tape recordings, you should also consider what was left out.”

Selections for the treatment and conduct of transcriptions need to be followed up but the situations under which these selections about editing and verification should be made are ignored. It is a known fact that structured interview consists of closed questions and the interviewer will finish the transcription throughout the progression of the interview. There is no need for audio recording.

For different types of interviews, a wide array of linguistic features needs to be figured out like tone, emphasis, body language, the setting and so on. It is very important to take into consideration interviewee’s comprehensions and views. Woods (1996) and Bell (1993) recommend varied methods of partial transcription where the researcher preserves comprehensive interview notes and has critical passages of the tape transcribed. According to Rubin and Rubin (1995), “It is an embarrassment when you tape for preciseness and then do not have a comprehensive transcription at the finish line.”

The Specifics of Interview Transcription:

Interview transcription can become one of the most tedious jobs that you will ever come across. It is very tough and extensive and requires a lot of concentration. Nearly around 6 hours need to be spent on each recorded hour for interview transcription. According to MCLELLAN, MACQUEEN and NEIDIG (2003), “Unsuitable and insufficient methodology of conducting transcriptions can lead to holdups in scrutinization and research conclusion, even presenting chief errors in the findings. This leads to failure in the attempts to enhance the efficacy of transcription which leads to greater delays.”

A research conducted by MEHRABIAN (1971) showcase that approximately 7 percent of information carried out by direct face-to-face communication is done through words alone and there is an approximate value of 38 percent which is integrated by vocal tones that enhance the information transmitted. But because it is very intricate to interpret symbols the procedure of transcription sometimes loses out the meeting of conducting transcripts.”

According to BAUER and GASKELL (2000), conversation analysts “We have created symbols that help in interpreting the missing pieces. There are certain symbols that have certain meaning but can be difficult to gauge and can be time-consuming but can be utilized to gather the missing pieces of information.

There Can be Different Reasons for the Interview Transcription Errors. The TWO Prominent Reasons Being Equipment Failure and Environmental Hazard.

1. Equipment Failure:

About 10% of interview transcription errors are prone to equipment failure. There are bound to be some equipment failure when you conduct interview transcription. Whether, it is the recorder or camera stopping, batteries dying, electricity going out or other issues. Hence, it is very important for transcriptionists to have a traditional backup plan of pen and pencil. To avoid this embarrassment it is important to evaluate all equipment before the interview. It is also significant to have additional batteries at your disposal and a camera or third recorder just in case if there is some problem with the recorder.

2. Environmental Hazard:

Approximately 15% of interview transcription errors occur due to environmental hazards. Background noise is one of the most deterring factors disturbing the transcriptionist. The background noise may or may not be the only thing hampering the productivity of the transcriptionist. It can also be the sensitive microphone of the camera or recorder that intensifies the sound which hampers the transcriptionist to understand the conversation.

When the equipment is turned on and off the relentless disruption also breaks the rhythm of the transcriptionist.  In order to avoid an environmental hazard, it is imperative for the transcriptionist to sit at a quiet place. It is also significant to have recorder or microphone close to record the conversation.

Oliver, Serovich, and Mason, authors of “Constraints and Opportunities with Interview Transcription: towards Reflection in Qualitative Research” (2005) claim that their differences between naturalism and denaturalize.  Naturalism is when every word uttered is transcribed in a comprehensive manner while denaturalize is when the characteristics elements of speech encompassing stutters, pauses, nonverbal, and involuntary vocalizations are eradicated.

There is no fixed pattern of conducting interview transcription.  Sometimes transcriptionists utilize a combination of both these methods.

This article was originally posted on August 12th, 2014

Image Credit: