How To Format Your Research Interview Transcripts (with FREE Templates)

How to format your research interview transcripts with free templates set against a background of two people sitting at a table having a conversation over a laptop
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Proper formatting is an important part of preparing research interview transcripts for analysis and publication. It ensures you have a clean, well-organized document to work with. If you’re not sure how to format your research interview transcripts, we’re here to help. Here’s a rundown of how to use the most common formats, with FREE templates to reference.

How to decide what format to use for your research interview transcription.

The exact formatting can vary depending on who’s using your data and what they’re using it for. However, there are some general guidelines that are widely used by researchers in almost all fields.

First, you need to decide what format to use. There are three main formats: verbatim, semi-verbatim, and intelligent verbatim. Unsure which to choose? Here’s a quick rundown:

Verbatim: Verbatim transcription records everything on the audio file, including non-verbal noises, chairs creaking, throats clearing…you get the picture. It’s the most detailed and precise format for transcription.

Semi-Verbatim: In some cases, the non-verbal information included in a verbatim transcription can be distracting, rather than enlightening. In these cases, a semi-verbatim transcription will remove extraneous noises and interjections from the interview.

Intelligent Verbatim: As the name suggests, “intelligent verbatim” is the most polished way to format a research interview transcription. Even the most eloquent speakers don’t always talk in complete sentences. In an intelligent verbatim transcription, the transcript is polished to remove grammatical errors and tie sentences together. It takes a skilled transcriber to ensure that the resulting transcription remains an accurate reflection of the interview.

For more on the different types of transcription, see Transcription of Qualitative Data.

How to Identify Speakers in a Research Interview Transcription

It is important to identify speakers in a research interview transcription. This allows readers to follow the dialogue and prevents confusion about who is speaking at what time.

But how will you identify them? The answer depends on how much identifying information you want to include. If you’re including the names of the participants, you have the option to identify them by their first names or by initials.

However, in many cases, you’ll want to anonymise the data. According to EDUCAUSE, a non-profit specialising in IT for higher education,  Information “De-identification ” or “anonymisation” refer to “situations where personally identifying information is removed from data sets in order to protect a person’s individual privacy.”

Depending on the research specifications, that can mean removing everything from the speakers’ name to other identifying information like places, job description or even gender.

But in that case, how can you tell who’s speaking? Here are some possible ideas for identifying speakers within a transcription:

  • SPEAKER 1, SPEAKER 2, etc
  • Roman numerals, like I or IV.
  • Pseudonyms
  • By gender, i.e. MALE 1, FEMALE 2. This can help make conversations easier to track without using names, but it also reduces the amount of privacy available to participants. Additionally, provisions should be made to ensure nonbinary individuals’ identities are both respected and kept safe.

When other identifying information (places, employers, etc) needs to be hidden, indicate that on the transcript with [de-identified].

Formatting Conventions for Research Interview Transcripts

Whether you’re transcribing an interview, focus group, or observation, the following tips will help make your transcriptions more user-friendly.

  • Speaker names or pseudonyms should be in all capital letters.
  • Use ellipses to indicate when information has been omitted.
  • For words that are unclear, put the word in brackets with a question mark after it. For example: [what?]
  • It’s also good practice to leave time-stamps on longer transcripts.
  • The most commonly used fonts are Calibri and Times New Roman. Avoid Common Sans like the plague.
  • For structured interviews, where the same questions are repeated with different participants, use Q1, Q2, etc on a consistent basis throughout the transcription.

Free Research Interview Transcription Templates

As a bonus, here are four FREE templates to help you get started. Simply click the link to download.

Verbatim Template

For when you need every “um” and “ah”.

Semi Verbatim Template

A cleaner template that still offers a detailed record of the conversation.

Semi Verbatim Template with timestamps at speaker intervals

Including timestamps in your transcriptions makes it easier to find and reference specific quotes.

Intelligent Verbatim Template

Complete sentences and cleaned-up grammar.

How To Format Your Research Interview Transcripts The Easy Way

Research interviews are a great way to collect rich data on people’s experiences and opinions. Proper formatting of research interview transcripts is an essential first step to making this qualitative data more accessible and easier to work with. Following the relevant guidelines is also an essential part of sharing your research with the world, making it more likely to be accepted for publication.

Of course, transcription, in general, can be time-consuming. But you don’t have to do it yourself. By partnering with a reliable transcription service like K International, you can focus on your work and let us handle the nitty-gritty details of transcription and formatting. We have decades of experience supporting universities, schools and individual researchers with their academic transcription requirements.

For more information about our academic transcription services, contact us today!