After you have collected the interview data for your qualitative dissertation, you will need to transcribe these data. You may even think of transcription as the first step in a qualitative data analysis, because as you are transcribing you are immersing yourself in the data and becoming familiar with your participants’ narratives. Many academic transcription services exist, but because the transcription process is so important for understanding your data set, you should consider doing this yourself. The transcription process takes time, so you will need to be mentally prepared for this endeavor. Experts suggest that for each hour of audio-recorded interviews, expect to spend 3-4 hours transcribing. This will take even longer if you are also translating from one language to another.
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You may find it helpful to review the audio-recordings of your interviews before setting pen to paper (or hand to keyboard). This will give you a flavor of the arc of the interview and help you anticipate what is coming when you begin transcribing. If you need to review the recordings multiple times, you should do this. Think of this as immersing yourself more deeply in the data.
There are different ways to transcribe interviews. One way that you could do this is with a blank word-processing document and your audio-recording device. Press play on the recorder and begin typing, transcribing verbatim what both you as the interviewer and what your participants said. Depending on your specific analysis, you may also record utterances such as pauses and hesitations. When you need to stop, press pause on the playback. If you missed something, you can rewind and go back. If this seems unwieldy, there are other options. One option is using a foot pedal. You can find new and used foot pedals for under $100 that are specifically made for transcribing interviews. These connect to your personal computer via USB and come with software that helps with transcription. You will transfer the audio recordings from your interviews onto your computer, and then as you transcribe, simply press the foot pedal to pause and play the recording! There are also internet browser add-ons that can assist with transcription. Some cost a small fee, but they allow you to work entirely in a web browser and are operated through the use of hotkeys, meaning you never have to take your hands off the keyboard.
When all of your interviews are transcribed, you will want to re-read your transcripts as you listen to the recordings, watching for any errors in transcription. This is your chance to correct any mistakes that you may have made in your transcription. If you plan to use member checking, now you have a complete transcription to give your participants. After all of this is completed, you will be ready for data analysis!