Conversational Analysis Transcription – what’s it all about?

Conversational Analysis Transcription – what’s it all about?

Transcribing in most cases is a matter of instinct and expertise on the part of the transcriptionist. A transcriber will listen to an audio recording and make a subjective decision on the content that needs to go in writing. Over 98% of all transcription work is done on this basis; making a selective analysis of the transcribing of actual words required.This is known as ‘intelligent verbatim‘ – ie allowing the transcriber to make a subjective judgment about what the client actually needs to read.

The next level up from intelligent verbatim is ‘true verbatim‘, which is the top level of standard transcription work. Here the transcriber has no opportunity to selectively leave anything out and transcribes every word in the recording. Naturally most transcription companies, including University Transcriptions, charge more for this service as it takes considerably longer. This type of work does not include any assessment by the transcriber of speech patterns, volume levels or change in tone etc..

Conversational analysis (also known as ‘discourse analysis’) is when a full analysis is required and the transcriber loses the opportunity to selectively choose which parts of the recording to include and which parts to leave out. The purpose of conversational analysis is to transcribe everything in the audio recording.

This is extremely complicated & technical work and there are courses on conversational analysis for researchers run by a number of UK universities using a system of notating the analysis devised by Gail Jefferson. This is known as the “Jefferson System” or “Jeffersonian Transcription“.

For conversation analysis each word or phrase in the recording has to be analysed by the transcriber to determine whether expression or symbols of expression need to be added in. For example, if the speaker’s voice is raised for one word, or a pronunciation of a word is slightly different to the norm, this is indicated in the transcript.

Most conversational analysis is undertaken by researchers and post-graduates for academic studies into speech patterns and it is something that takes a considerable amount of time to do. Every word has to be listened to, studied and translated into symbols & expressions. The time taken is considerably longer than a normal piece of transcription work.

Conversational analysis transcription is really only suitable for academic studies because for just about every other form of transcription the reader does not need to know that there has been a pause between words or the speaker has increased or lowered their tone for a few words in a sentence.

For most people even having true verbatim is too detailed. We usually recommend allowing our professional transcribers to use their skills and experience to provide an accurate and intelligent record of the recording. The cost savings using intelligent verbatim instead of true verbatim are fairly considerable. Intelligent verbatim is the most suitable type of transcription for most users of our service, but conversational analysis using the Jefferson system is available and we have trained transcribers who can undertake this work.

For further details of the work of and please contact Anna Gresty at