How Do You Transcribe a Qualitative Interview?

After interviews have been conducted or events have been recorded, the task of transcription begins. For those who have not transcribed before, it is easy to under-estimate the amount of time needed to transcribe interviews and interaction. What does interview transcription entail? What are the best ways to go about interviewing someone? Are there any tricks that can be used to help ensure accurate interview transcription? These questions and more will be addressed in this guide on how to transcribe qualitative interviews and interactions.

Steps Involved in Interview Transcription

Transcription can be broken down into three simple steps: Recording, listening and typing. All three steps are important to ensure an accurate transcript is produced. Here’s how it works:

1) Record – The first step in transcription is recording interviews or interactions. Using a digital recorder with good quality sound and voice activation will help produce higher quality recordings. If using an audio recording device, it is also important to verify that your device has enough memory space for your entire recording session as you may not have access to additional memory cards while out in the field.

2) Listen – Once your recording is complete, listen back to each file at least once before starting transcription. This allows you to make sure that everything was recorded correctly and there were no technical difficulties during recording.

3) Type – This is where most people stop when they think of transcription; however, typing up what was said is only half of what needs to be done when transcribing an interview or interaction.

Tools to Use in Interview Transcription

You will need to have several tools in order to successfully complete your transcription. The first thing you will need is a digital recorder. If at all possible, make sure that you get one with either an input for an external microphone or one that has good built-in microphones. You should also be able to record at least 2 hours of audio on your device before having to purchase another SD card and recycle it. An external microphone is also very important for recording better quality audio than what would normally come out of these devices.

Tips for Interview Transcription

Although some applications of transcription, such as court reporting, may require different approaches than in academia, there are still standard tips and tricks that can aid transcription. Remember to: listen to recordings more than once; take detailed notes; be consistent with formatting and style; follow ethical guidelines (i.e., confidentiality); and share accurate transcripts with those who participated in your research. Transcription is time-consuming, but it can help clarify data during later analysis of results.

Common Pitfalls in Interview Transcription

There are three main issues that people commonly encounter when attempting to transcribe interviews: running out of time, losing track of thoughts and concepts, and skimming over difficult terminology. The key to avoiding these issues is, firstly, breaking down an interview into manageable sections and secondly setting a word-count goal for each section. This way you’ll be able to track your progress so that at least you have some level of guidance as to whether or not your target will be met.


Interview transcription is an efficient way to analyse qualitative data by reading it, listening to it, and writing notes on what was said. This practice allows interviewers to consider multiple layers of their experience while they are still fresh in their mind.