Transcribe your own Recordings

Transcribe your own Recordings

We sometimes get researchers and academics from a range of universities contacting us to ask us for a quote to complete a series of transcriptions or a one off from a recording they have recently taken that links in to their research or project. We give them a quote (with prices starting at 95p per minute we are usually very competitive) but we get feedback from the researcher to say that the price we are proposing is a lot of money and they could do the work themselves for a lot less.

Naturally we do not disagree. They could pay nothing if they do not outsource the work and complete it themselves. If every researcher and academic has the hours in the day they could probably do everything else for themselves too. What tends to happen is that in over 75% of cases where a researcher or academic sets out to complete the academic transcription themselves, we get a rather sheepish email off them within a few weeks to ask if we could undertake the work because they have not been able to complete it themselves. By then they are considerably closer to their deadlines and suddenly they need the work back within a matter of days. This of course increases the cost because most transcribers charge higher fees for shorter turnaround times; and what was a fairly low cost project has turned into something more expensive.

How easy is it to transcribe your own recordings?

It is perfectly possible to transcribe your own work if you are an academic and have recorded interviews with subjects. Simply download a free piece of transcription software from a company in Australia called NCH ( called Express Scribe. Express Scribe is a fantastic piece of software used by transcriptionists around the world on a very regular basis. It enables you to upload your recordings into the software and slow down the recording, add time stamps and generally do everything you need to in order to produce a transcription of the work. It is the software that most if not all of our transcribers use, and we thoroughly recommend it, particularly the Pro version which adds so much to the software.

You will need to put aside a good amount of time in order to complete the work, because on average it takes between 4 and 6 hours per hour of recording to transcribe it. This is particularly so if you are a novice and not used to typing in real time. If your typing speed is less than 60 words per minute you will also struggle to keep up, even if you slow down the recording using software like Express Scribe. Most transcribers will have a typing speed of around 70 to 100 words per minute and are capable of keeping up with the speed of the speaker. As an amateur you may well struggle with this bit and it will take a bit of practice in order to be able to detect the words and produce a transcription.

Whilst you are undertaking the work you will need total silence, so make sure you switch your phones off, tell colleagues not to disturb you and ensure that there is nothing distracting in the room as you start the work. Be prepared for a long stint in front of your computer and do not get frustrated if you cannot keep up for the first 20 minutes or so. It does get easier but it is going to take you a long time to complete this work.

Could you be doing something better and more interesting? Yes of course you could. Just accept that the quote given to you by accurately reflects the time it takes to complete work like this and outsource it to us! We would be happy to assist and hopefully this will free you up to do other more interesting and useful things.

If you have any questions about how to transcribe or record particular groups or scenarios, please get in touch and we would be happy to assist. We have been involved in transcription and recording for almost 20 years and can recommend both hardware and strategy for a successful academic transcription. Have a read of our blog for a range of articles on how to transcribe and record your research interviews etc..