The Benefits of Using Human Transcription in Qualitative Research

by Diana Carrillo / Landmark Associates Inc. / Work / 06/09/19

Digital recordings have for long been the tool of choice for university professors, medical professionals, and researchers, to capture academic and research-based data. While digital recording allows academics and researchers to focus their energy and resources on the investigative process, it simultaneously creates another burden: the need to go through all of the digital and audio recordings in order to transcribe the content and pull out the key findings.

Why Transcription is So Important for Qualitative Research

Analyzing collected data and being able to see the patterns in order to reach conclusions is an essential part of the research process. But this analysis can be compromised without the proper pooling and filtering of important data from the material that is sourced during the investigation. This source material can come in a variety of formats, such as audio, video,imagery, polling data, and written documents from participants including questionnaires. With text-based versions of all materials, investigators can better identify and prioritize their sources to improve the accuracy of theirfindings.

But, the amount of time, energy, and expertise required to review the audio material for analysis makes this activity practically prohibitive. The industry standard for transcribing one hour’s worth of recording is more than four hours, and it may take even longer if the audio quality is poor and the transcriber is lacking the necessary skills and equipment. If a member of the research team is assigned the task of transcribing, the process of capturing every detail often involves the continuous replaying ofrecorded sections to double and even triple check statements. While this person is busy transcribing content, it also means his or her skills cannot be used elsewhere.

In order to overcome this hurdle, many research teams partner up with professional transcription services to turn their media files into searchablewritten insights that can then be organized and analyzed.

While those on a budget may decide to work with an automatic transcription platform, which relies on speech recognition technology to quickly convert audio to text, at this point there is still a long way to go when it comes to the quality and reliability of the results. Consider that audio quality can vary significantly based on a number of variables, such as the quality of the mic or the recording device being used, it’s distance from the speaker, the presence of accents and industry jargon, and the number of people speaking. While progress has been made, automated systems are still struggling to make sense of it all.


Even where human based transcription is used, the job is often given over to inexperienced freelancers, interns or low-quality outsourcing firms. In this case, the resulting quality and accuracy can actually be much worse than an automated solution.

Professional human transcriptionservices are currently the best option foracademics and researchers in need of accuracy and quality- especially when it comes to qualitative research where the understanding, insights, and the “meaning” behind the data is so important.

The Benefits of Professional Human Transcription

Here are three benefits to using professional human transcription in qualitative research:

•​ Seeing the patterns

Since a major part of qualitative research is the review process, it is vital that all of the information collected in all of its forms is accurate. Researchers must do a significant amount of work to analyze qualitative data, and access to high-quality text significantly helps in that process. Achieving actionable insights and formulating conclusions are made much easier when transcriptions of the qualitative data are clear and searchable.Researchers are then free to quickly locate specific information, identify key patterns and spot inconsistencies. Plus, transcripts make research content accessible to those outside of the research team– a fact that can come in handy if the team needs to tap into the advice or expertise of someone not directly involved in the research.

• Knowing who said what

Research interviews, lectures and focus groups can easily span hours and involve many people. Not only is transcribing long recordings tedious and time consuming, but when there are multiple speakers, it’s important that the right words are attributed to the right speaker. Professional transcribers have specialized training and equipment, allowing them to produce reliable transcripts of recorded materials, and the transcribed texts will clearly and accurately outline exactly who said what.

• Capturing verbatim versus non-verbatim data

Depending on the type of the research being conducted, the completed transcript may need to be either verbatim or non-verbatim. A verbatim transcript of a recording will include various conversational or expressive “tics,” such as mumbles, stutters, grammatical errors, and pauses– details that may by of vital importance to the research being performed. A non-verbatim transcript, on the other hand, records the fundamentalmeaning behind what was said, butdoesnot type these statements exactly as they are spoken. In other words, it offers a “cleaned up” version of the transcript to improve readability. Professionally trained transcribers will be able to provide both forms of transcription
In short, partnering up with a professional human transcription service can take the the organization and analysis of academic and research-based data to a whole new level, and in the process help qualitative researchers reach the most accurate and informative conclusions
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