Interview transcription needs to be accurate and the quality of the transcripts has a direct bearing on the quality of the recordings. The following advice is gained from talking with our clients, who have produced fantastic recordings, which has resulted in interview transcription that has been of superior quality. We trust the following will help you in getting the best recordings and as a result, the best transcripts from us.

The equipment

For one to one interviews, we recommend that you use a table top microphone. The one we recommend cuts out background noise and if you have an additional person sitting in that makes additional comments but isn't part of the interview as such, their comments will be picked up by this sort of microphone. Please be aware, however, that with table top microphones the table is used as part of the resonator so keeping things off the table is important (e.g. don't let the person sit there stirring their coffee when interviewing!) The added advantage of getting this equipment is that it can be used for multi voiced (focus group) interviews.

We recommend the following:

A table top microphone (click here to view)

The Olympus WS-100 digital recorder (click here to view)

Total cost of all this equipment:   £11.94 + £58.29= £70.23

Types of sound files

The quickest way to get your audio to us is via our secure file transfer system, which means you should ideally record in digital format. These file sizes can be small or large depending what format you use. We are happy to receive .wav recordings but you should be aware that these are large files and can take a long time to transfer from your computer to ours. We would therefore advise you to choose either .dss, .wma, .mp3, .msv or .dvf files as these are smaller than standard .wav files. The above equipment works with MAC computers as well as PCs and produces WMA sound files. If you are using an alternative recording device please double check with the manufacturer that the splitter and lapel microphones will work with your model.

We do, of course, accept standard cassette tapes and mini discs and the above microphones and splitter is also recommended. 

If you decide to use a standard tape recorder we recommend the Sony TCM-200DV (click here to view

Recording advice

Things to avoid:

1. Having windows open if there is a lot of traffic noise or road works taking place. Remember that if you are in a city centre where emergency vehicles, large transit vehicles or buses might go past at any time and ‘bleed over’ your recording, as well as lawnmowers etc outside your office window;

2. Avoid working in areas where there is a lot of through traffic, such as restaurants, cafes, places open to the general public etc

3. Disconnect telephones in the office you are working in and ask people to turn off their mobile phones. Text messages received on mobile phones give off a radio frequency that you will not hear but your recording equipment will pick up.

4. Turning papers on your desk next to the microphone. Have your papers arranged on your desk where you can view them without having to turn pages over. If you have set questions these can be put on prompt cards which make less noise when these are turned that standard sheets of paper.

5. Don't verbally prompt when your subject is talking.  Don't say, “hmmm hmm,” “yeah,” or interrupt when something interesting or important is being said.  Instead, use visual cues like nodding your head.  Otherwise it’s extremely probable that your interviewee’s words will not be able to be transcribed.

6. Air conditioning, blow heaters, computers left running that announce the arrival of email messages etc will all be picked up by the recording device.

7. NEVER use an internal microphone on a device. These are designed for direct dictation and not for picking up several voices. This often results in muffled recordings that are difficult to hear and several voices will not be identified correctly.

Things you should do:

1. Test your equipment before you begin. If you are relying on batteries ensure these are fresh and always carry a spare set with you.

2. If you are using a table top boundary microphone, this uses the table as a resonator so coffee cups, cutlery, tapping on the table etc will be picked up by the recording. However these microphones come very highly recommended by us. They cut out the majority of background noise and pick up all the voices.

3. Place the microphone central to yourself and your respondent or meeting participants. This way you get an equality of sound, with the ability to hear your questions and their responses. If you know the person has a quiet voice, test out the sound quality. You can do this by having a set of headphones plugged into your recording equipment and ask them to introduce themselves before the interview begins, then place the microphone in a position where you can hear their voice clearly through the headphones.

4. Press record on your device before you intend to start the interview to ensure everything is recording. If you forget to turn on the recording device you could have conducted an interview without recording the beginning.

5. Unless you want words clipped and missing, DO NOT USE voice activation.

NEVER USE A MICRO CASSETTE DICTAPHONE FOR INTERVIEWS, THESE ARE DESIGNED

FOR ONE PERSON DICTATION.

Things you should avoid:

1. Having windows open if there is a lot of traffic noise or road works taking place. Remember this is you are in a city centre where emergency vehicles, large transit vehicles or buses might go past at any time and ‘bleed over’ your recording as will machinery cutting grass outside your office window;

2. Avoid working in areas where there is a lot of through traffic, such as restaurants, places open to the general public etc

3. Disconnect telephones in the office you are working in and ask people to turn off their mobile phones. Text messages received on mobile phones give off a radio frequency that you will not hear but your recording equipment will pick up.

4. Turning papers on your desk next to the microphone. Have your papers arranged on your desk where you can view them without having to turn pages over. If you have set questions these can be put on prompt cards which make less noise when these are turned that standard sheets of paper.

4. Don't verbally prompt when your subject is talking.  Don't say, “hmmm hmm,” “yeah,” or interrupt when something interesting or important is being said.  Instead, use visual cues like nodding your head.  Otherwise it’s extremely probable that your interviewee’s words will not be able to be transcribed.

5. Air conditioning, blow heaters, computers left running that announce the arrival of email messages etc will all be picked up by the recording device.

6. NEVER use an internal microphone on a device. These are designed for direct dictation and not for picking up several voices. This often results in muffled recordings that are difficult to hear and several voices will not be identified correctly.

Things you should do:

1. Test your equipment before you begin. If you are relying on batteries ensure these are fresh and always carry a spare set with you.

2. If you are using a table top boundary microphone, this uses the table as a resonator so coffee cups, cutlery, tapping on the table etc will be picked up by the recording. However these microphone come very highly recommended by us. They cut out the majority of background noise and pick up all the voices (see separate advice on focus group recording).

3. Place the microphone central to yourself and your respondent. This way you get an equality of sound, with the ability to hear your questions and their responses. If you know the person is covering a difficult subject and is likely to get quieter as they speak or has a quiet voice to begin with, test out the sound quality. You can do this by having a set of headphones plugged into your recording equipment and asking them to introduce themselves before the interview begins and place the microphone in a position where you can hear their voice clearly through the headphones.

4. Press record on your device before you intend to start the interview to ensure everything is recording. If you forget to turn on the recording device you could have conducted an interview without recording the beginning.

5. Unless you want words clipped and missing, DO NOT USE voice activation.

NEVER USE A MICRO CASSETTE DICTAPHONE FOR INTERVIEWS, THESE ARE DESIGNED

FOR ONE PERSON DICTATION.

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