Assignment 3 Transcription Reflection

No matter how many times I have transcribed interviews, it is always challenging.  Not only is typing what the interviewer and interviewee say word-for-word tedious and frustrating, the decisions regarding punctuation, pauses, and “uhs” and “ums” are headache inducing.  Throughout my experiences transcribing interviews, I have always struggled with typing out exactly what the person says in one try.  By this I mean I cannot keep up with the person speaking or think I hear him or her say a word he or she does not.  That is why it is important to go through the recording with one’s transcript multiple times to be sure the transcript matches the recording.  While typing the words out is not difficult as long as the person transcribing listens to the clip multiple times, determining a standard for punctuation as well as whether to include pauses and “uhs” or “ums” is challenging.

For assignment three, my standard for punctuation was as follows: if it sounded like there was a natural break in what was being said, I used a period. Interviews oftentimes do not have complete sentences (fragments), or the interviewee’s statements are run-on sentences because he or she is typically thinking aloud.  As a result, I would use commas when there seemed to be an audible slight break in a run-on sentence (or really long fragment).  If there was a significant break (more than a second or two) in a run-on sentence or long fragment, I would use a period.  No matter how much of a standard I create for myself for a transcription project, it always depends on how it sounds that ultimately leads to the decision of how to punctuate a particular sentence.  Also, there were a few instances in the clip when a word or phrase was garbled. I denoted this in the transcript as [inaudible].

My opinion of whether to include “ums” and “uhs” or any other utterances along those lines is probably not popular.   Based on my experience in the news industry, I do not include “uhs” or “ums” in transcriptions unless necessary.  When I say “necessary,” I mean that it indicates an interruption in a response due to the other person (interview or interviewee) speaking over the other person.  You’ll notice that my transcription for assignment three includes “uhs” or “ums” oftentimes alone (the sole utterance of a person) when he is being interrupted. I then drop to the next line and include the statement of the person interrupting.  The dash I include ( – ) indicates an overlap in dialogue (because both people are speaking).

The reason I do not include “uhs” and “ums” or similar sounds is because most of the news transcriptions I have dealt with or done do not include them.  News organizations either use a video or audio clip.  If neither is made public but a transcript of an important event is available, “uhs” and “ums” are rarely used.  The few times I have seen “uhs” or “ums” included in transcripts or full screens (when a quote appears on the television screen) have been when the story dealt with a scandal or trial, and the story had an agenda (i.e. tried to make one person seem incompetent, unsure or a liar).

I think pauses and utterances like “uhs” and “ums” can provide insight into the speaker’s mindset and response.  However, I am a big proponent of using the actual interview (voice recording or video recording) when conducting research.  Transcripts are great for doing initial research but no matter how many “uhs” or “ums” are included, grasping the full essence of the voice recording is still not possible.  Hearing someone’s response can give insight that reading a transcript cannot.  This is also why I did not include pauses in the transcript.  Since I believe the transcript is an initial research tool that can help someone determine whether listening to the actual recording is worth it, I do not think including pauses is necessary.  A person will ultimately listen to an interview if he or she deems the content of the discussion important to his or her work because a voice recording is much richer than a transcript.  Pauses can be valuable in determining someone’s attitude, tone or overall belief in what he or she says, but the topic and content of the interview is what is most important.  The pause adds an extra layer, which, as I have stated, should be heard (not read) to have the best understanding of the person’s point of view.

1 Response to “Assignment 3 Transcription Reflection”


  1. 1 sgglos March 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Portelli would applaud your attitude about the importance of the recording over the transcript. Your previous experience and instincts led you to make good choices. You’re right: including the “ums” only when they hold significance helps to make for a smooth and readable transcript. Very nice reflections.

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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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