Lewitz Assignment 3, Part 3 – Reflection

A challenge I faced in transcribing this interview was capturing the interviewee’s accent and slow speech. I wanted to capture Mr. Riley’s Southern drawl, but it was challenging to do so. I found it difficult to translate his accent to a written text. In order to address this issue, I did my best to capture the fragmented words Riley used, such as ‘cause and goin’. Hopefully this would help readers of the transcript understand his accent. I also did not know how to adjust the script to reflect the many pauses Riley used throughout his interview. I think next time I will add more parenthetical indicate the pauses my interviewee uses.


Another challenge I faced was transcribing the interviewee’s constant use of um’s and uh’s. I found it very frustrating to transcribe all of these interjections. In my view, they did not contribute to the value of the transcription. Instead they clutter my transcription and decrease the document’s readability. I think the next time I transcribe an interview, I will not include the um’s and uh’s. I would make a note of it at the beginning of the transcription. The only time um’s and uh’s are necessary are if the interviewee is thinking hard about something. In the interview I transcribed, this was not the case. Riley used um’s and uh’s too frequently for this to be the case.


When I first read a transcription, I was taken aback by the interviewee’s long monologue. As I transcribed this document, I found that those blocks of text contain incredibly valuable information. If Prof. Knight were to cut off Riley, he may not have been able to fully develop or communication a certain idea. I think that Prof. Knight’s silence is valuable because it provided Riley with the freedom to completely explore certain ideas. The only problem with interviewer silence is that the interviewee may think you are not paying attention to him or her. Prof. Knight addressed this problem by interjecting yes’s and hm’s throughout the interview. I decided not to transcribe these because I felt like they were irrelevant to the content of the interview.

1 Response to “Lewitz Assignment 3, Part 3 – Reflection”

  1. 1 sgglos March 11, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Your point about the “ums” slowing down the reader of the transcription is very good. If someone wants to really experience the oral history, they should – as Portelli says – go to the recording, which is the real document. And your thought about notating frequent use of “ums” etc, at the start of the transcript is a good one. I don’t know that I’ve seen that done, but it’s not a bad idea. It is interesting to me to hear you describe Mr. Riley’s “southern drawl”, when in fact I don’t hear it that way. Your ears and my ears hear it differently; if we were both to attempt to transcribe regional inflection, we might end up with a very different result. Something good to consider since the goal of a transcript is to create an easily accessible record of the text. Good instincts.

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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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