Transcribing Interviews – A 5-Step Guide

29.08.22 Interviews Time to read: 5min

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Transcribing interviews is a key methodology used in qualitative research to convert spoken language into written text, enabling a detailed and thorough analysis. It is a systematic approach to gather and interpret rich, nuanced data, serving as an essential step in understanding participants’ perspectives and experiences. Also, it is usually done word for word and is a common practice in conducting interviews. This article provides a comprehensive guide for transcribing interviews.


Transcribing Interviews – In a Nutshell

  • Transcribing involves converting the recorded speech into text.
  • You can use verbatim, intelligent verbatim, or editing transcription technique.
  • After transcribing the interviews, you should clarify and edit the script.
  • The aim of interview transcription is to allow easy data analysis in research using techniques like coding and categorizing, content analysis, and thematic analysis.

Definition: Transcribing Interviews

Transcribing interviews is converting the speech into a written document, word for word. Thus, interview transcribing helps you analyze the data collected during the interview. Interview transcription typically involves the following five steps:

  1. Selecting the ideal transcription method
  2. Using transcription software to transcribe the speech or audio
  3. Formatting the transcript (adding the speaker designation and time stamps)
  4. Clarifying the text
  5. Proofreading
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Step 1 of transcribing interviews – Choosing a method

The first thing you should do before you begin transcribing interviews is to choose the transcription method you want to use. Basing your choice on the goal of your transcription would be wise. Below are some of the top methods you should consider.

Verbatim transcription

This method for transcribing interviews involves writing down every single word in the recording. Additionally, it includes emotional expressions like laughter, pauses, and hesitations, like (eeh..).

Verbatim transcription is commonly applied in the legal field. However, it is also an ideal technique for research where you are interested in what was said and how it was said.

Intelligent verbatim transcription

This is the most common method of transcribing interviews, especially in research. Intelligent verbatim transcription involves writing down every word, without irrelevant fillers, like hesitations, and words with no meanings, like ‘ehe’.

The goal of removing the filler or irrelevant words is to make the transcription more readable than verbatim. However, in intelligent verbatim transcription, you lose elements like emotions, hesitation, surprises, or pauses.

Edited transcription

Edited transcription involves writing an edited or summarized version of an intelligent verbatim transcript. Thus, aside from omitting irrelevant fillers, you also remove sentences that do not change the story’s meaning. You can use this method if you want your transcript to be straightforward and not as long.

Step 2 of transcribing interviews – Changing the script

Once you have determined the ideal method of transcription you want to use and transcribed the speech, the next step is altering the script. While this step is not mandatory, you may need to apply it if the audio quality is poor or if the conversation in the audio needs clarification. For instance, you can change the script if the audio does not indicate the speaker and can be confusing.4

Some changes you can make to the script before transcription include:

  • Adding a clarifying note, like “I asked him (the manager) to show me the proof.” The words “the manager” is the clarifying note.
  • Clarifying important unspoken gestures, like “This (points at the date 14th May) is when I asked him to show me the proof.”
  • Using ellipses to mark unclear or missing parts of the audio, like “I asked him… the proof.”
  • Emphasizing words, for instance, I asked him to show me the proof.


Patric: “We (the management) determined that introducing computers in the workplace helped improve productivity by 15%. We presented… to the board and had more of them (points at the computers) shipped to our other facilities. Months later (6 months), our productivity increased by 35%.”

Step 3 of transcribing interviews – Formatting the script

After altering the script, the next step is to format it. While there are no specific rules on how interview transcriptions should be formatted, you can do things like:

  • Adding or making anonymous the names of the interviewer and interviewee
  • Adding the date and time when the interview happened
  • Indicating the location
  • Indicating the speaker designation (Who says what in the interview)


  • Interviewer: Ramon
  • Interviewee: Patric Charles, manager
  • Date and time: (10th December 2021, 11:00)
  • Location: Coca-Cola headquarters, South Africa
  • Patric: “We (the management) determined that introducing computers in the workplace helped improve productivity by 15%. We presented… to the board and had more of them (points at the computers) shipped to our other facilities. Months later (6 months), our productivity increased by 35%.”
  • Ramon: How was the reception of the machines in your other facilities?

Step 4 of transcribing interviews – Analyzing the transcript

After preparing the complete transcription, the next step is to analyze the script. You can use various techniques, like coding and categorization.

The coding and categorization analyzing technique is where you link keywords to the answers you received from the interviewee. Doing this will help you link the connection between the answers of different correspondents. For instance, you can link the keywords “employee productivity” to the answers.

Other methods you can use are:

Step 5 of transcribing interviews – Using transcription software

Transcribing interviews is more complex than it seems. For instance, the process takes time and requires incredible levels of accuracy. For these reasons, transcription software exists. You can use the software to develop transcriptions quickly. Good software for interview transcription should offer high accuracy levels. An accurate software features the following elements:

  • Speaker recognition
  • Editing
  • Stuttering omitting
  • Comment and highlight element
  • Correct capitalization
  • Correct punctuation
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There are basic methods for transcribing interviews; verbatim, intelligent verbatim, and edited transcription. Each method features distinct rules and characteristics.

The most common method is intelligent verbatim, which is more readable.

In research, the transcription helps make the data collected from an interview easier to analyze. It also helps with reporting.

You should transcribe interviews when you have so much recorded content and not enough time to go through it all by listening for analysis.