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Research Transcription – Five Key Questions Every Researcher Should Ask

The process of converting the recordings of focus groups and interviews into written transcripts is called research transcription.

Every researcher who embarks on a research project and uses focus groups and interviews to collect data will need their recordings transcribed to produce research transcription.

While some researchers prefer to transcribe the audio themselves, for most researchers this option is simply not feasible.

Instead, researchers seek out reputable transcription companies to provide them with high quality written transcripts of their recordings, which are then used in the research analysis and evaluation process.

For first-time researchers, this process can be quite daunting.  There are many transcription variants which must be considered which if overlooked or not applied correctly, can negatively impact on the research data.

Research transcription - five key questions every researcher should ask

Following are five key questions every researcher should ask their transcription company, before embarking on the transcription journey.

Question 1: Can you supply me with transcripts in the style I need?

The most common style for research transcription is Intelligent Verbatim (standard style).  Intelligent Verbatim transcription style accurately captures everything spoken by participants, but for readability purposes omits false starts, repetitions and excessive use of filler words such as “um”, “you know” and “like”.

Intelligent Verbatim is the default style used by most transcription companies and the style requested by the majority of researchers.

Less common transcription styles are Strict Verbatim and Conversational Analysis.  Researchers who are undertaking basic linguistic analysis or analysis of various paralinguistic and nonverbal communication will request one of these styles.

Both styles are applied using strict rules, precisely structured formatting and often require full sound checking, and therefore incur surcharges to accommodate the highly specialised and complex nature of each style.

If you require either of these specialised styles, make sure to ask your transcription company for accurate pricing and appropriate turnaround options.

Question 2: Can you provide me with transcripts typed in a specific format? 

Many researchers are happy to have their transcripts typed into the default template provided by their transcription company.  However for researchers who are using qualitative analysis software, such as Atlas.ti, NVivo or MAXQDA, formatting really does matter.  Transcripts must be typed in a format which is easily imported into the software, for data analysis.

If you know which qualitative analysis software you will be using, make sure you find out what the formatting requirements are for that software, and let your transcription company know.

Many transcription companies have experience with formatting for qualitative analysis software, and may be able to provide you with further information.

Question 3: How do you ensure highly accurate transcripts are produced?

It may seem obvious, but accuracy of the transcript is absolutely essential in ensuring the data you receive can be properly analysed and evaluated.  Research transcripts must be accurate accounts of the activity, free from grammatical and typing errors, and conform to specific needs as articulated by you, the researcher,  at the beginning of the project.

Make sure you ask your transcription company for details on their quality assurance process.  One way of checking that a quality assurance process is in place and adhered to is asking whether the transcription company is ISO:9001 certified.

ISO:9001 certification is an internationally recognised quality management system standard, which outlines the requirements an organisation must maintain in their quality management system.  Transcription companies which service the research sector should be ISO:9001 certified.

Question 4: How will you meet my Ethics Standards requirements?

An essential requirement for every researcher is ensuring that ethical standards as outlined by the research or funding body are adhered to.  The safety, security and confidentiality of all stakeholders, and the data which is gathered, is paramount.

Ask for your transcription company’s Terms and Conditions and Privacy policies.  These policies spell out the steps taken to ensure the confidentiality, privacy and security of the data, at each stage of the transcription process.

Some research projects may require specialised and specific confidentiality, privacy and security measures.  In these instances researchers are provided with specific ethics standards which must be met, which are then passed onto the transcription company to co-sign.

Most transcription companies are happy to co-sign such documents, but do need to thoroughly review the agreement, before signing, to ensure compliance is possible.

Question 5: Will your turnaround options suit my research requirements?

The types of research and ways the research is funded varies greatly across the sector.  Variables which can determine turnaround include the quantity, length, and number of speakers in each audio file, and when the research project needs to be completed.

Many transcription companies offer considerable flexibility in their turnaround options, and will accommodate most individual requirements.  If you have tight deadlines it is advisable to speak with your transcription company as soon as possible, to ascertain what your expectations are, and what the transcription company can deliver.

Research Transcription Explained

Converting recorded audio into written and accurate research transcripts is an essential element of every piece of research which draws data from focus groups and interviews.

By asking these five key questions you, as a researcher, will be better informed as to the type of research transcription you require, be fully versed in the language of research transcription and so better able to communicate your needs to your transcription company, and ultimately obtain superior transcripts which meet your individual research needs.

Researchers, by asking these five key questions about research transcription you will be better informed, know the language, and get the results you want.

Do you need more information?  Contact Sterling Transcription today.

About Catherine Byrne

Catherine's work with Pacific Solutions Pty Ltd spans many areas, including writing and design, business development, training, and of course, keeping abreast of emerging trends and new products which enhance transcription and dictation experiences for clients.
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