How long does it take to transcribe interviews?

Rule of thumb 1 to 10

Expect to need about 5 to 10 times the interview duration as transcription time. That’s assuming well-recorded one-on-one interviews, average typing skills, simple rules for transcription, and a proofread at the end. We measured it: Our empirical research showed a mean of 1 in 6.3 (SD = 1.5). That means, per hour of audio material of an interview recording, our subjects needed about 6 hours and 20 minutes for typing. The fastest transcription speed we measured was around 1 to 3. This person managed the record speed only because he practiced this technique professionally and typed for only one hour – so he made a sprint. But transcribing entire interviews is more like a marathon. So don’t underestimate the time it will take you. To help you get through it all and make the most efficient progress, here are our top tips:

Big influencing factor: Your own typing speed

Whether you work with a three-finger search system or blindly with a ten-finger system has a great influence on the expected processing time. The good thing is that you can train your own typing speed and become significantly faster. However, only if you tackle this in time. Because it takes a lot of practice time. If you are about to hand in a transcription, this time optimization strategy is unfortunately out of the question.

Nevertheless, you can quickly and easily check where you stand. Simply check your own typing speed here.

Transcription rules: The more complex, the slower

Transcription rules define whether or not an “um”, a pause, or a pitch change needs to be typed. The complexity of transcription rules is determined by requirements based on method, research subject, and subject. Which rules you have to take is mostly determined by your research method. For example, qualitative content analysis usually uses simple rules and sequence analysis usually uses more complex rules. The more details have to be recorded, the longer the typing takes. So far, so trivial.

The influence of the rules is immense. With a complex rule system such as the GAT2 basic transcript, one must reckon with 18 hours per interview hour, even with appropriate practice; for a GAT2 fine transcript, even 30 to 60 hours. Other projects, e.g. in the context of a Qualitative Content Analysis, use less elaborate transcription rules. With such we did the test above and ended up with about 6 hours 20 minutes. You can find these rules ready for citation here in our practice book on p. 22 ff.

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