Transcription has always been an integral part of research and analysis, but its age-old existence doesn’t naturally make it a simple thing to perform. The reasons are many. To begin with, accurate transcription needs time, patience, and trained ears— a combination that is sometimes difficult to find all at once. For instance, you may be an adept interviewer, but you might not be the best transcriber around. Why? Because you might not simply like transcribing. As Michael Agar in “The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography” writes, “Transcription is a chore.” Lack of interest towards the job is one of the first constraints that you may face while transcribing. But that’s just the beginning.
A group interview in which more than one person is involved is especially challenging to transcribe. It needs trained ears to distinguish between the speakers by virtue of their voices alone. The situation becomes tougher if the speakers have very different accents. A professional transcriber, hence, is the best person to make an accurate transcription because he/ she will already be trained in the art of making such fine-line differentiation. This would again minimize the time required while dramatically increasing the accuracy.
Interestingly, the possibilities that an interview transcription presents also stay hidden within its challenges or constraints. The same interview that a non-professional would find tedious to transcribe would give a professional exciting opportunities. This is especially relevant for denaturalism where the transcribers remove idiosyncratic elements of speech and as well as other aspects that are irrelevant to the overall interview. This includes the filler words (such as umm, you know, etc.) and nonverbal components (such as pause). In other words, denaturalism gives a transcriber the freedom as well as the responsibility of taking out the irrelevant bit while keeping the essential parts intact.
In the “Constraints and Opportunities with Interview Transcription: Towards Reflection in Qualitative Research” (2005) authors Olivia, Serovich, and Mason elaborate on the two methods of transcription: denaturalism and naturalism. Contrary to denaturalism, the latter takes into account every bit of the recording in as much detail as possible. Naturalism is used more when the “how” is as important, or more so, than the “what” was said. The authors also say that there is no right or wrong way of transcribing an interview, and often the most common approach is a hybrid of these two methods. At Scribie we use the denaturalism method. However, in cases you want us to follow the naturalism method, please let us know when you upload the file and order the transcript.