How to transcribe an interview for UX research

Megan Johnson
September 14, 2022
How to transcribe an interview for UX research

If you’ve ever played the game “telephone,” you’ll know firsthand how information is easily garbled as it passes from person to person. Let’s imagine you’ve held a focus group with customers and you need to write a research report on your findings or discuss your findings with stakeholders. If you rely solely on your memory to recount what was discussed, you’ll find that you might not remember everything discussed and forget vital information.

Writing a research report or discussing your qualitative user interview findings with your team without an interview transcription is playing a very expensive game of telephone.

When it comes to getting the most insights out of your research interviews, and being able to analyze your respondents’ answers, you need to have interview transcripts readily available that you can frequently refer back to.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the ways you can transcribe your interviews. (Spoiler: #3 is the best.)

Type as you listen to your audio recording

It’s a pretty self-explanatory method, you type as you listen to the audio files. As you’re listening to the recorded interview, you type the words as you hear them. This method is typically done in social sciences for field research projects.

So you’re probably thinking why are we mentioning this method for your qualitative research?

Well, not only is it free, this method will help you develop your research skills. If you transcribe your interviews yourself, you’ll get the opportunity to evaluate your own interview style. You’ll be able to hear firsthand how your interviewee responds to your research questions.

For instance, did you unintentionally ask a leading question? Or did you phrase your question in a way that influenced an answer? When you listen to your audio, you’ll be able to identify if there was any bias in your interviewing.

After you’ve transcribed your interview, analyze your transcription and write down how you can ask better questions and improve your interviewing style. It’s important to note that this isn’t a sustainable method, it’s time-consuming and requires you to have a fast typing speed. You should only do this method once or twice to evaluate your interviewing style.

Use interview transcription software

As we mentioned above, it takes a long time to transcribe interviews yourself. It takes approximately 4 hours to transcribe 1 hour of video or audio. Realistically speaking, no UX researcher has 4 hours to spare to manually transcribe interviews, so your next best bet is to use transcription software.

There’s many brands available on the market, here are our faves:

Using software is a pretty intuitive and effective method to transcribe your interviews. You upload your video recording files to your software, the software transcribes your files and all you have to do is wait for the transcription to be ready. This method will save you time and a lot of typing!

Depending on which tool you use, transcription can start at $0.15 per minute.

Verbatim and non-verbatim transcriptions

Most transcription tools offer two types of transcriptions. Verbatim and non-verbatim. Verbatim transcriptions include all the words that are heard on the recording, like stutters (the umms and ahhs). Non-verbatim transcriptions are cleaned up to remove the stammers and filler words to focus on what is being said.

Here’s an example of a sentence transcribed non-verbatim and verbatim and compared side-by-side:

Example 1

Non-verbatim: I think the onboarding process is quite simple and there are only a few steps.

Verbatim: Um, I guess… I think the onboarding is quite simple and umm, there are only a few steps.

You might be wondering which transcription service you should use for your interviews, and the answer depends on your research method. Verbatim transcripts include non-speech sounds like “umm” which are incredibly useful when you want to understand or analyze your user’s behavior, and it’s important to note non-verbal cues that express hesitation or objection.

Use a research tool with built-in interview transcriptions

Imagine you’ve launched a bunch of qualitative studies and you have a lot of research data, it can be a lot of effort to upload the audio or video files to your transcription software. Not to mention it will take a lot of time for the transcriptions to be ready. The ideal solution is to use a tool that comes with a built-in transcription service.

There’s no need to upload files to an external app and there’s no waiting around for a few hours for the transcript. Any time a user is speaking, their words will automatically be transcribed. You can copy and paste your respondent answers straight to your research reports.

Most third-party transcript tools don’t provide transcripts as written text with time stamps, a lot of the time, the transcript is formatted as prose, which isn’t helpful to you as a researcher. You can use timestamps to jump to a specific point in an audio file to listen carefully to an interviewee’s tone.  

Was the tone apprehensive? Using a timestamp speeds up the locating process and allows you to accurately analyze the tone.

When you use a research tool for your transcriptions, you can take qualitative data analysis even further. For example, with Great Question, you can annotate your transcript by highlighting sections and adding tags. Tags are a great way of organizing your analysis. For instance, you can create a tag named “negative” and highlight the portions of the transcript that you felt had a negative tone.

Get free, automatic interview transcriptions with Great Question

Transcribing interviews is an important step in your research process. And, as you already read, you have tons of options. But, if you want to use a single tool to manage your panel of customers, schedule interviews, and then transcribe those recordings so you can make notes/highlights or even reels, you can do that with Great Question. Get started today.

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