Transcription Reflection

I have some experience pulling quotes from audio recordings, but I’ve never done a full transcription before. The biggest struggle was in simply keeping up with the speed of speech. Toward the end of my clip, I got into a better rhythm, and became more used to where my pause and rewind keys were. I was still frustrated with my own slow typing. I found it easier to try to get through the recording once with typing errors, and then go back on a second listen while making corrections. By the third listen, I was still catching little words that were missed in transcribing.

The transcribing process required me to make a lot of stylistic choices. The speaker used “um” or “uh” frequently, but I felt that including all of these would make him seem less eloquent or competent. I included them in the transcription a few times when I felt that they were used to indicate contemplative thought, more than just filler speech, but that was only an opinion on my part.  Additionally, Professor Knight often used “mhm” during the interview. I felt that this was a means of moving the conversation forward, showing that he was listening, and did not warrant being included on the transcript.

This oral history also presented some challenges that I was not expecting. There were a few instances when I had trouble hearing exactly what was said, especially if it was the name of a person or place. I marked these places with “[difficult to understand].” There were also a lot of references to proper nouns (movies, publications, people) that require formatting in written form. I had to think about capitalization, spelling, and italics. I had the most trouble with the transcribing when there was an overlap in speech between the two people. The first time, they spoke in unison, so I marked the dialogue as “both.” For the other times, though, it was much less clear, I tried to include both speakers’ words in approximately the correct order. Doing this transcription showed me firsthand the many ways that separate written transcriptions from an oral history.

1 Response to “Transcription Reflection”


  1. 1 sgglos March 11, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Portelli would be pleased by your conclusion that transcription & oral history are so different. It sounds like you came up with some good strategies for handling the process. It is worth considering whether an occasional “um” might have special meaning. How do we sense when is it worth including certain pauses and sounds and when are they just part of the rhythm of speech? 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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