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How to produce accurate transcripts of interviews and focus groups

To produce accurate transcripts of interviews and focus groups, you need:

  1. suitable audio transcription software and equipment
  2. accurate touch-typing skills
  3. excellent ears (hearing and listening skills)
  4. excellent knowledge of spelling and punctuation
  5. follow our 3-point plan to produce accurate transcripts.

Suitable audio transcription software and equipment

To produce accurate transcripts, you need an audio transcription program and the right equipment.  For more information go to: Audio transcription programs and tools.

Accurate touch-typing skills

Although you don’t need to be able to type at 100 words per minute, a working transcriptionist needs to be able to type at least 80 words per minute with pretty good accuracy.

You need to be able to touch-type; that is, type without glancing down at the keys. Whilst you’re listening to what is being said in the recording (via your earphones) you need to be simultaneously typing what is being said and, at the same time, reading what you are typing on the computer screen and correcting mistakes as you go. (See: Can you touch-type?)

And you need to be accurate. It’s okay if you make a few mistakes as you type, as long as you are a good self-editor and fix up those typing errors later.

Excellent ears/hearing

Your hearing needs to be excellent. You need to be good at hearing not only people who are talking to one another but also people speaking to one another when there are other conversations going on in the background. You also need to be able to hear and transcribe what people are saying when there are air conditioners or other equipment humming in the background.

You need to be able to not just hear, but listen, so you understand what people are saying. Because you have to comprehend the meaning and context of people’s comments in order to accurately transcribe what they are saying. You also need to be able to understand what people are saying when they don’t speak English well, or speak with a very strong accent, so you need experience in listening to people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Excellent knowledge of spelling and punctuation

Spelling and punctuation are written, not verbal, aspects of communication. The purpose of correct spelling and punctuation in any text is to make the meaning of that text as clear as possible.

Your role as a transcriptionist is not only to accurately transcribe the words that are spoken. It’s also to make sure all the spelling is correct and that the text is punctuated so that it: 1) accurately reflects the statements and intent of the person speaking, and 2) is as easy to read and understand as possible. With the right punctuation and presentation, even a rambling focus group conversation involving multiple interruptions can be presented as a clear, easy-to-read transcript.

Note: in a verbatim transcript, you should always type exactly what is said, even when people use incorrect grammar or made-up words, to accurately reflect the comments that have been made. The transcriptionist should only correct the words in a transcript if they: 1) are transcribing dictation (which usually needs editing), or 2) have been asked to edit the transcripts.

For more information about audio transcription, go to:


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