Transcription Tips

We have compiled transcription tips to assist you with your recording.  This enables us to produce the best quality transcription for you.  The quality of the the audio received determines the quality of the transcription.  We hope that our transcription tips will ensure that all your hard work is worthwhile.

If you have not yet conducted your recordings, please bear these transcription tips in mind.  If you have already conducted your recordings, these transcription tips may assist you to understand your transcription better.

Please note: it is not possible to fix bad recordings, delete interference, or enhance sound quality to a reasonable standard.


Audio Quality

It is preferential to record using a bit rate of at least 64kbps.  The higher the bit rate, the clearer the audio.  The audio file will be larger but there is no compromise to the audio quality.


Audio Format

We accept most formats of audio.

Cell phone recordings have become popular.  These often use a different format to normal recording devices.  We do accept these audio files and to-date haven’t had an issue finding a conversion programme.  However, in the case of unusual formats, we may charge to find a programme to convert the file to .wav or .mp3.  Please contact us for further information.

Setup

  • Ensure that you record in a quiet environment to avoid unnecessary background noise.
  • Place the recorder/microphone close to the participants.  It will make it easier to hear them.
  • Begin recording a few seconds before talking.  This ensures you won’t miss anything.
  • Switch off cell phones to avoid interruptions and to avoid cell phone reception interference.

Noise Interference/Disturbances

There are many noise disturbances you need to be aware of when recording.  Although these sounds might not seem loud, the recorder/microphone might amplify these sounds.  This can overpower the participants’ voices.  Here are but a few examples:

Papers rustling

Ensure that those around the recorder/microphone are not looking through papers while someone is speaking.  Ask the person paging through papers to move away from the recorder/microphone.  Also move the recorder/microphone closer to the speaker during this time.  Remember to move it back when the person with the documents has stopped.

Cups and saucers

This is a common problem just after a tea break/lunch.  Those close to the recorder/microphone stir their tea/coffee or put their cups on saucers.  Have participants stir their tea/coffee prior to commencing recording and place their cups as far as possible from the recorder/microphone.  Another solution is to use cups without saucers.  Use a soft placemat, for instance, to eliminate the noise of the cups on saucers.

Coughing/sneezing/throat clearing

Ask participants to turn away from the recorder/microphone if they feel the need to cough, sneeze, or clear their throat.  Although they may do this as quietly as possible, these can be amplified and overpower the speaker’s voice.  To clearly capture what a speaker has said in these instances, ask the speaker to repeat what he/she has said.

Traffic noise

In heavy traffic areas, close all windows and keep the recorder/microphone as far from the windows as possible.  Be aware of vehicles hooting, trucks reversing (beep-beep), and so forth.  Ask the participant to repeat what he/she said (hooting) or stop talking until all is quiet again (trucks reversing).

Cell phone interference

Placing a cell phone close to the recorder/microphone can cause cell phone interference.  While you are recording, all will seem normal but, on the recording, you will only hear the interference.  Switch off cell phones or place them far from the recorder/microphone.  Cell phones on silence near the recorder can still create interference.

Air-conditioners/fans

Where an air-conditioner is noisy, keep the air-conditioner fan as low as possible to soften the noise.  Ensure that participants speak louder than normal and are closer to the recorder/microphone.  Where possible, sit at the end of the room furthest away from the air-conditioner.  The same applies to noisy fans.

Construction

Whether inside the building or outside the building, construction noise is one of the most difficult to eliminate.  Where possible, request a change of venue.  If this is not possible, close all windows (for outside construction) or doors (for inside construction).  Sit as far away from these windows or doors as possible.  To hear participants above construction noise, ensure they speak louder than normal and are closer to the recorder/microphone.

Banging/tapping on tables

Ask those present not to bang or tap anything on the table.  It may be soft on their side but the recorder/microphone may amplify the sound.  In the case of an accidental instance, ask the speaker to repeat what he/she has just said.

Pen clicking

Ask those present not to constantly click their pens.  Again, this sound can be amplified and may overpower the speaker’s voice.

Venue noise

Venue noise occurs in places like coffee shops, company cafeterias, outside areas, and the likes.  Try and avoid these areas.  You have no control over the environment and it can make clear recording difficult.  If you must use these areas, ask the participant to talk directly into the recorder and speak louder than normal.  Don’t place the recorder on the table.  This assists in hearing his/her voice above the din associated with these areas.

Noises in general

If possible, take a couple of minutes in the venue before anyone arrives.  Close your eyes and listen.  Evaluate all the sounds you pick up during this time and try and eliminate those you can.

As people talking outside to keep noise levels down for the duration of the recording.

Test chairs.  Change particularly noisy chairs, if possible.  If not, ask the participant using that chair to refrain from too much movement.

Where you can’t change noise levels, ask the participants to speak louder than normal.  Ask participants to keep the voice levels up during the entire session.

If there are sudden noises or interruptions, ask the speaker to repeat what he/she has just said before continuing.  Rather have the same thing twice than not at all.

Speaking

The most crucial part of your recording is the way the participants speak during the recording.  If we are unable to hear too much, we can lose the entire context of the subject.  This may cause problems throughout the audio as we may miss something important.

Here are a few things you can ask them to do to ensure you get the best quality transcription:

Speak clearly

Ask the participants to speak clearly and enunciate.  Avoid mumbling.

Speak slowly

Ask participants to speak slowly.  Speakers who talk quickly often have their words running into each other.  This makes it difficult to hear precisely what is said.  Another positive is that the speaker is less likely to stutter, stammer, or hesitate.  The speaker will have more time to think while talking and the flow will be smoother.

Voice volume

Participants should maintain a good voice volume.  We might not clearly hear a participant if he/she speaks too quietly.  Wherever possible, place those with quieter voices closer to the recorder/microphone.

Heavy accents

It’s not possible to avoid or change heavy accents.  If a participant has a particularly heavy accent, ask him/her to speak clearly, slowly, and enunciate as best as possible.

Simultaneous talking

Ask participants to refrain from talking over each other.  Allow one speaker to finish talking before another speaker starts talking.  If you need to interrupt the speaker, interrupt him/her with a brief indication.  Allow him/her to stop talking before proceeding.

Special Notes on Group Recordings

If you are conducting a recording with a group of people, please take note of the following:

Simultaneous talking

This is one of the biggest issues when conducting group recordings.  Ask participants to allow each other to finish talking rather than interrupting.

Recorders/microphones

Wherever possible, in large groups, ensure that each participant has his/her own microphone.

If you are using a recorder, ensure that the speaker has the recorder close to him/her.  In a large group, a recorder in the centre of the table doesn’t always work.  It may be difficult to hear those sitting further from the recorder.  Consider using more than one recorder and place the recorders around the table.

In the case of one microphone, ensure the speaker has the microphone when talking.  He/she must hand it to the next speaker after finishing.  Ask participants not to talk until they have the microphone in their hands.

Speaker identification

Ask participants to identify themselves prior to talking.  Where voices are distinguishable, participants only need to do this once.  Where voices are similar, participants should do this each time they speak.  Alternatively, video record the session instead (or as well) and ensure the video captures all participants.  We can convert video recordings to audio for transcription and/or use the video as an identification tool.  Or consider a note-taker to take notes at the session.  Note each speaker and a few keywords.  This allows for easy identification.

Participants don’t need to use names.  Allocate them a code to use.  Have them introduce themselves using this code before beginning the session (record the introduction).  Then have them use this code when they speak.  Have them say something brief so we can pick up their voices and style of talking early.

A person’s voice can change from one instance to the next.  Voices change according to excitement levels and emotions.  A participant may have a deep, slow voice.  As he/she gets excited, the pitch, tone, and speed of his/her voice may change.  It sometimes makes comparison difficult.

Clear identification of speakers requires less voice comparison.  This decreases the cost of transcription and improves the turnaround time.

Supplying Information

The more information you can supply, the better quality transcription we can provide.  This information can include the list of attendees, meeting agendas, meeting minutes, conference programmes, interview questionnaires, and so forth.  We will keep all information confidential and use it for reference purposes only.