So, I might have mentioned that I’m doing a PhD. It’s all been going rather well recently. I presented two well-received papers at conferences recently. I’ve had an article accepted for a (tiny) journal. I’ve added a few thousand words to my methodology chapter. I’ve seemed productive.
But what I wasn’t mentioning was that I can’t really move forward, I can’t actually get this done, until I transcribe the interviews I did with my research participants. I think most people just kind of assumed that I was done with transcribing. I am, in fact, only about a quarter of the way through my transcribing. I started on the job in July 2012, planning to be done in about four to six weeks. It’s eleven months later. Hmmm.
Now that I’ve got a lot of my groove back with food (and things are going well on that front so far), I’ve got back into transcribing too. When I opened the interview I’m currently in the middle of, I saw that I had last edited it on the 16th February. That’s quite a while ago.
Yesterday, I managed to transcribe 14 minutes of interview. That’s actually quite a good rate for me. On my best day’s transcribing ever, I managed about 35 minutes. And there have been days where I’ve only transcribed three minutes and still spent a lot of time on it.
Transcribing is not my calling. And even though I find the interviews themselves really interesting, I find this hard.
So I wanted to check if I was alone. And I searched Twitter for the word “transcribing”. What follows are the lessons I learned from Twitter:
1. People don’t like transcribing:
@JasonKingESPN says “Most any journalist will tell you that the worst part of the job is transcribing tape. About to plow through two hours worth. #godhelpme“
@carr2n says “Hate transcribing itvws w/force of 10K suns.“
@Proteautype says “There is no musical montage that could make transcribing interviews look fun.“
@Popjustice says “I feel like I’ve died three times while transcribing this Madeon interview.“
@stevenperkins says “Sorry, I’ve been doing a lot of transcribing. It’s made me slightly tetchy.“
@DavidKenner says “If I had to describe my version of hell, it would be me, in an empty room, transcribing interviews for eternity.“
@wornjournal says “Hell is transcribing your own interviews“
@JAMESINREHAB says “Transcribing an interview from earlier in the week. This is painful! So uncomfortable!“
@aoibhinn_ni_s says “So far I have 44 hours of recordings for my PhD which will translate to at least 160hours of transcribing. 23 solid days of typing…“
@aoibhinn_ni_s later says “Oh my god, transcribing is TORTURE.“
@EleanorFitz says “Transcribing an interview…zzzzzzzzz……zzzzzzzz“
@katbrown82 says “God I hate transcribing. Please, come and cut off my hands. And then my ears. And then my vocal chords so I never speak on tape again.“
@sophwilkinson says “transcribing is basically detention for journalists“
@DougHaller says “In 4.5 years of college, I don’t recall any of my journalism professors warning me about all the time I will spend transcribing tape.“
@TVMcGee says “When (not if) I go to hell, my punishment will be transcribing interviews for eternity. #handcrampsahoy“
2. Transcribing makes you hate yourself:
@ChrisHewitt says “Transcribing an interview. I say, ‘I’ve only got one more question’ about ten times.“
@Memles says “I’d say that transcribing isn’t like riding a bike, but that would imply I was ever capable of transcribing efficiently.“
@sophwilkinson says “transcribing. just got to the bit where i start choking on my own spit.“
@Jemima_Khan says “The horrors of transcribing i/views. Why do I interrupt just when the interviewee is saying something fascinating….AAAGH! #selfhatred“
@amandahess says “hell is transcribing your own inane interview questions“
@HitFixDaniel says “I “love” transcribing interviews while yelling at myself for the follow-up questions I didn’t ask.“
@caparsons says “After transcribing hour upon hour upon hour of dissertation interviews, my only conclusion thus far is that I hate the sound of my own voice.“
@twitney says “Hell is transcribing an interview between yourself and a dreamy teen idol in which you giggle way too loudly and too often.“
@CoryHaller says “Transcribing interviews will get easier once I’m able to stand the sound of my own voice. #hope“
@willyblackmore says “The embarrassment of listening back to your bumbling questions while transcribing interviews.“
@samsteinhp says “is there a more soul-breaking part of reporting than listening to how lame you sound when transcribing an interview you conducted?“
@PennyRed says “Transcribing interviews. My god, I literally have the voice of a pixie. Why did nobody tell me?“
@rhodri says “Just transcribing a telephone interview I did on Friday which I ended by saying “cheery-bye”. I’m now going to hurl myself off a cliff.“
@ThatRebecca says “Pretty sure I’d roll my eyes at the woman in this interview I’m transcribing if she weren’t me.“
3. People who are transcribing are very distractable:
@eoinbutler says “Transcribing and watching football simultaneously here. They said it couldn’t be done. Might have had a point.“
@kieranmulvaney says “Hours and hours of interviews and presentations to transcribe. So am I transcribing them? Nope, I’m reading and posting tweets. #badwriter “
@Adar79Angie says “*transcribing some dictation…looks up…pauses..* I wonder what Drew Barrymore is doing right now…*continues with dictation*“
@Popjustice says “I’m transcribing, please send distractions“
4. People transcribe unexpected things:
@PabloTorre says “Transcribing a very long interview in which I apparently said, “So, off of that argument, here’s my general perspective on aliens.”“
@tweetcomedian says “Busy transcribing the lyrics to Row Row Row Your Boat. This is never going to end.“
@theleanover says “My dream job would be transcribing the closed captioning for porn“
@nelldarby says “I am sooo tired. Not helped by transcribing apparently endless cases of turnip stealing in C18th Buckinghamshare.“
@brainsdoc says “My transcriptionist keeps transcribing “disk bulging” as “dick bulging”. I think she needs a date.“
5. There can be a happy side to transcribing:
@celebrityhottub says “STYLE TIP: Your interview subjects can not stop you from transcribing it as “kewl”.“
@stevenperkins says “I am a transcribing MACHINE this morning. If you need some doing, send it my way. (Note: do not send your transcribing my way.)“
@EmilyGould says “Transcribing is kind of great. All the fun of writing with none of the irritating ‘thinking of what to write’“
6. It is important to mark the end of transcribing:
@kpfallon says “Every time I finish transcribing an interview I’m horribly disappointed that confetti doesn’t start raining down on me.“
@stevenperkins says “*holds up cardboard cut-out* “What have you done today to make you feeeel proouuooahh??” “Well, Heather, I’ve finished all my transcribing.”“
@Popjustice says “I am transcribing. What should be my ‘I’ve finished transcribing’ song for 2013?“
@Popjustice also says “I HAVE FINISHED TRANSCRIBING.“
I clearly need to get myself an ‘I’ve finished transcribing’ song. Or possibly an ‘I’ve finished transcribing’ symphony.
I have tried software to make it easier. I bought three different transcription packages online. I returned them all. This is an example of what happened when I tried to feed one of my interviews into transcription software last November:
“For a delay out of favor with the thoroughfare to go to the cross and LSO’s is that he is free, as a fellow citizen or overflow
Jason you are so of God yes and Elizabeth’s story is significant for a place if you are anymore in your and you will end up on their link really does although through a new for one see such a race card and set her free article will focus on overall this is a new little authorities tell as you know why was he so rediscovered the Catholicism and his mother are down to the Philippines is located at him and he is a video and more going for him and his editing is qualified for the is… who will you do over a telephone is 10 and nine in is spotted… it is a range of injured players will it be the will of the Israeli city is what their editorial today sure out of you and is that the visitor will present to you my dad was laid off in its own right and you will say that he is now: 8/10 he better not let go of the most seller: Apple is her sister and month and a half out of school at the in a for us all willing to get out of the theater. I of the accident was in employment for a reanimates a man was well“
Note – I am not revealing any confidences here. The ONE AND ONLY word it got right was “yes”.
I have, however, been given the loan of a transcription pedal. I’m looking forward to using it.
And I’m looking forward to my transcribing. It’s weird to have these lengthy life stories that touched me so significantly stored in audio files. They’re like little presents waiting for me. Fingers crossed I get them all open within the next month or so!