From Word to Text: Challenges in Transcription/Indexing

Our task for Assignment #4 was valuable but challenging in ways I did not initially expect. As a journalist, I came into the transcription process somewhat familiar and was quickly reminded of how time consuming the work can be! The technical aspects of the recording make it difficult to hear words or exact pronunciations, especially when background noise interferes with the recording device during an interview. As the indexer and transcriber, it was difficult because you had to record what you see as significant in the interview, sometimes based off of what you can actually comprehend through the recording. For example, when words became muffled or the subject’s pronunciation was hard to understand, I had to determine how I was going to transcribe his words. Without having any prior knowledge, documents, general context of the recording subject, it was hard to spell names and places without recording them phonetically, which isn’t always the best or most accurate way of documentation.

Personally, I tried my best to record as much of the dialogue as possible, therefore eliminating filler words (um, uh, etc.) and only noting pauses if it helps aid in understanding the overall interview. If you are somewhat familiar with the topic of conversation (in my case, Greek food), it was easier to figure out how to spell a word (Spanakopita), but I can imagine if a different indexer/recorder wasn’t as familiar, the lack of context around the interview would present a major challenge during documentation. I tried to indicate extended pauses or interruptions with ellipses and recorded the dialogue similar to how one might write a play manuscript (ex. “You gotta,” or “You know,”). The punctuation I used also attempted to mimic natural speech flow, in an effort to present the interview as authentically as possible while being easy to understand by readers.

1 Response to “From Word to Text: Challenges in Transcription/Indexing”


  1. 1 mal2013 February 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    A good observation that the transcriber’s familiarity with the topic being discussed could affect the accuracy of the transcription. Be sure to note any interventions you’re making to craft an accurate transcription (e.g. use of punctuation).

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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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