Transcription of Qualitative Data

Transcription for Academic Research
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Transcription for Academic Research

Transcription services are a vital step in helping university students and researchers understand, analyse and present their qualitative data.

When undertaking your research project, collating your findings collected at focus groups, group meetings, one to one interviews or observations often involves transcribing of audio or video files.

But what type of transcription service do you need when converting audio into text for academic research purposes? And what is the most effective way to have your audio files transcribed?

This article can act as your guide to understanding transcription for academia,. We’ll delve into best practice, and offer the best solutions for transcribing your research.

But first, let’s define what academic transcription is.

What is Transcription for Academic Research?

Put simply, transcription for academic research is the process of converting research findings recorded through audio or visual means into text format for the purposes of further analysis.

Many groups in academia use qualitative research, for example students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels studying for Bachelors, Masters or PhD level along with research teams undertaking research projects on behalf of their university.

A significant proportion of researchers’ time is spent designing research, collecting data, analysing content and reviewing findings.

What has any of this got to do with transcription you may ask?

Converting your audio files into text for qualitative analysis can be extremely time consuming and many researchers use professional transcribers to speed the process. The benefits are that professional transcribers are both much faster and more accurate than untrained individuals allowing university researchers more time to dedicate to the analysis stage.

When Should You Use Transcription in Academia?

There are multiple use cases for this type of service within academia. In essence, you’ll need transcription services whenever your raw research data is not in a text format.

For example, here are some  research methodologies that use audio or visual format that will require transcribing:

  • Interviews
  • Lectures
  • Group discussions
  • Seminars
  • Focus groups
  • Press conferences
  • Consultations


What are the Various Types of Transcription?

There are different types of transcription service you can use for academic purposes. Broadly speaking, they can be broken down into three categories: verbatim, semi-verbatim, and intelligent verbatim. Let’s spend a moment looking at these different transcription tiers in a little more detail.


Verbatim transcription records everything as it was on the audio file. In other words, every cough, shuffle in a chair, and inaudible utterance are transcribed as heard in the original recording. That includes grammatical errors, slang, and pauses such as errs and umms. If you need the transcription to precisely capture everything as it was, then this is the service for you.


This service is similar to the verbatim service. However, the pauses in between words such as errs and umms are omitted for the sake of clarity. All filler words, broken sentences, and repetitions remain in place so that the dialogue recorded stays true to the original recording(s).

Intelligent Verbatim

Intelligent verbatim transcription requires a skilled and experienced transcriber to edit the overall transcript to eliminate superfluous words, correct grammatical errors, and tie sentences together. However, they do so in a manner that ensures the final transcript remains an accurate reflection of the intents and purposes present in the original recording(s).

What Are the Best Methods for Transcribing Qualitative Data for Academic Purposes?

There are plenty of options available to you if you need to turn a raw audio or video file into a text document. There are, of course, pros and cons to each. Let’s run through the various options, highlighting their significant advantages and drawbacks.

Doing it Yourself

Many academic researchers choose to transcribe recordings to text themselves. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and it is undoubtedly the cheapest method as it involves no initial outlay.

However, rarely will a transcript be accurate, especially if you took part in the original recording. What tends to happen is your brain naturally fills the gaps and makes assumptions based on your memory, which is famously unreliable. In a way, you are too close to the subject material to avoid bias creeping into your transcription. You could end up glossing over vital details.

Doing it yourself is also very time-consuming, especially if there are multiple voices on the recording, and some with accents you may have difficulty distinguishing who said what thus diluting the effectiveness of your research outcomes. If you have many recordings, or need them quickly transcribed that this is probably not the best option for your research.

Using an App

If you want to distance yourself from the transcription and save yourself hours spent on transcription, then using an app might be a suitable solution.

There are plenty of app-based solutions that use AI-driven Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology to transcribe audio and video recording into text. Since the transcription is carried out by software, this is another cheap option (depending on the provider) if you need a transcription quickly. If it’s an app you opt for, we’ve reviewed a few transcription apps in our recent article about automated Transcription Apps to help you decide which one to go for.

However, once again, accuracy is an issue. ASR transcriptions are not as accurate as human transcribing services. Where human services usually guarantee 99.9% accuracy, ASR usually delivers around 60-80% accuracy. Some app-based options are not secure either. If you are transcribing highly sensitive information as part of your qualitative research, this method might not be suitable.

Human Transcription

Transcription services are widely regarded as the gold standard in transcription. The professionals transcribing your recordings into text documents not only have decades of experience behind them, they are experienced in working with multiple voices, accents and in some cases languages.

Not only can they offer accurate multilingual transcriptions, but companies such as K-International can offer secure, encrypted transcription for maximum protection of sensitive data such as confidential discussions.

In a setting whereby your research methodology has to be beyond reproach and peer-reviewed, many academic researchers feel it’s a worthy investment.

What is the Best Way to Represent the Data?

There are a myriad of options when it comes to presenting the transcription as a written document. However, transcription best practice have been established within academia.

Firstly, the transcription should be in a text-based document such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or a PDF. Doing so makes it much easier to annotate your transcription either on a computer or by hand if you’ve printed it. Transcriptions should denote who is speaking on the left-hand side of the page, and time-stamps at the beginning of each new passage of speech are recommended.

If you are transcribing to analyse the conversation itself, you may wish to employ a universal notation system such as the Jefferson Transcription System. This notation device indicates numerous interactions over and above the words spoken, such as speed of speech, length of pauses, the pitch of voice, intonation, volume, and intakes of breath.

This method of notation not only captures what was said but how it was said. A transcript with Jefferson-style transcription notation captures the complex nature of interaction in its entirety, but readability does suffer. Hence it is best reserved for discourse analysts and researchers interested in the speech itself.

How Much Does Transcription Services Cost?

When it comes to transcription services, how much you pay will depend on the type of service you require.

Here at K International, we have made things easy by providing an easy-to-use cost calculator. Just fill out the requirements within the calculator, you will be presented with a quote within seconds.

Alternatively, if you wish to speak to a member of our expert transcription team about your requirements, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01908 557900. Whether you are a student, professor, or academic researcher, we look forward to working with you soon!