McLane Short Assignment Three Reflection

Prior to this assignment I had never done a transcription. However, I now realize the importance, as well as the flaws, of the art of transcription, and I am looking forward to improving my skills in this area. I approached this assignment in a very methodical way.  After listening to the recording at full speed for the index, I slowed it down a tiny bit and began to type as many words as I could decipher. I tried to refrain from stopping or rewinding the recording because, at first, I only wanted to create a skeleton of the transcript from which to work.  Next, I slowed down the recording to about 75 percent of its original speed. This allowed me to understand and type more words, but I realized that it distorted the sound, timing, and inflection of the interview. This made it difficult to determine what exactly was being said and how it was pronounced. Therefore, once I fleshed out the transcript, I brought the recording back up to its full speed. This time, I started and stopped the recording every once and a while so that I could more accurately record details such as length of pauses and inflection of words.

Throughout this process, I encountered things that I did not know how to translate from spoken to written word.  First, I struggled with figuring out how to represent stutters, pauses, and muffled sounds that I could not hear clearly. I decided to create a set of guidelines that I would follow throughout the transcription—at least if the notation was wrong it would be uniform. I italicized words that were emphasized by either the narrator or interviewer.  Then, I used ellipsis whenever I heard a long pause. However, I ran into the problem of figuring out where to draw the line between pauses long enough to deserve ellipsis and those short enough to be notated by a comma instead. I decided to use dashes to indicate an interrupted thought or a correction to a formerly stated thought or word.  For example, the narrator began to say the word “Carmike,” but then started over and said the entire word.  I indicated this by notating the phrase as Car–Carmike.  In the same vein, I had a hard time deciding how to represent words, such as mhm or okay, spoken in the middle of the other person’s statement.  In the end, I decided to place a dash at the end of the last word the narrator spoke and a dash at the beginning of the first word the narrator spoke after the interjection.  I placed the word spoken by the interviewer on a line separating the statement of the narrator.

I am not satisfied by the way my misunderstandings of the recording were translated to the transcription. I was puzzled as to how to handle words that I could not hear clearly or those that I did not know how to spell.  I represented these words to the best of my ability, but I am not sure if I actually did them justice in the transcript.  I tried to search the names and words that I could not spell on the Internet, but to no avail.  Therefore, I just did the best that I could and made an educated guess as to how I thought the word was spelled.  I listened to the recording at various speeds many times, so hopefully, in the end, my transcript is as accurate as possible.

1 Response to “McLane Short Assignment Three Reflection”


  1. 1 sgglos March 11, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Your process of experimenting with recording speed is very interesting and painstaking. How will you use that tactic in future after your experience this time? I appreciate how you struggled with notating the hard-to-transcribe bits, and your attempt to research names and places unknown to you is admirable. Nice job!

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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