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Special Collections & University Archives: Oral History Transcriptions

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Oral History Transcription

The transcription is a word-for-word written interpretation of the oral history interview. The purpose of transcription is to enhance the accessibility of the recorded interview. However, the important nuances of an interview itself may be lost during the process of recording and subsequent transcription, including but not limited to the gestures and facial expressions, verbal cadence and inflection, rapport between the interviewer and narrator, and tone of the conversation.

Transcription Format

The transcription should reflect the words spoken by the narrator and interviewer along with a timestamp indicating when the words were spoken. Here is the basic format:

Narrator Name: Santa Claus

Interviewer Name: Easter Bunny

Interview Date (MM/DD/YYYY): 01/01/2001

Interview Location (place or address, city, state): Santa's workshop, North Pole

Acronyms: SC (Santa Claus), EB (Easter Bunny)

[Begin Transcript 00:02:00]

EB: Thank you for inviting me to your workshop. Today I would like to discuss changes in toy making over time. Let's get started by talking about today's toys. What do you consider to be today's most popular toys?

SC: Well, as you might expect, Mr. Bunny, electronic toys like video games are growing in popularity. But, the staples, like stuffed animals, toy cars and trucks, and musical instruments, are still very popular.

[End Transcript 00:03:30]

Transcription Basics

The key to good transcription is consistency. Here are a few basic tips for transcribing interviews:

  • Capitalize proper names of institutions, organizations, persons, places, and things according to standard English practice.

  • Use timestamps consistently (HH:MM:SS). For example, timestamp changes in conversation or changes in speaker.*

  • Avoid abbreviations​. Spell out okay, Texas, et cetera

  • Use brackets for clarification. ​For example, They [the school board] voted down the proposal.

  • Crutch words (uh, um, etc.)​ or false starts (She – she said)​ may or may not be transcribed.*

  • Spell out numbers unless referring to dates or addresses​ (street numbers and postal codes)

  • Use parentheses or brackets for sounds other than talking. For example, (knock at door) or [dog barking]*

  • Take your time. Listen. Type. Listen again.

* Student oral historians, please check with your instructor for guidance on their specific preference.

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