Hello, we are Linda Cabral and Laura Sefton from the Center for Health Policy and Research at UMass Medical School. We often collect qualitative data from interviews and focus groups. One challenge we frequently face is how to quickly and efficiently transcribe audio data. We have experimented using voice recognition software (VRS), and we’d like to share our approach.
You will need headphones, a microphone (stand-alone or attached to a headset), and a computer with audio playback and VRS installed on it. We use Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium Version 11.5 voice recognition software, however other VRS is available. Use of audio playback software will allow you to control the playback speed, so you can slow it down, pause, fast forward, and rewind as needed.
Open the audio file in the playback software and open a new document in the VRS. While listening to the audio via the headphones, repeat what you hear into the microphone. During this step, you can format the document to indicate who is speaking and to add punctuation. Because VRS works best when trained to understand a single voice, a designated team member should repeat all spoken content, regardless of how many voices are in the audio file.
This process will generate a document in the VRS that can be saved to your computer as a Word file. As a final review, read through the Word file while listening to the audio file and make needed corrections. This could be done by another member of the project team as a double check of the document’s accuracy.
- Spend time training the VRS to recognize your voice. A few practice sessions with the software may be needed where you can read dummy data into the software in order for it to learn your voice. This will improve the transcription quality, minimizing the time spent editing.
- Train the VRS to recognize project-specific acronyms or terminology prior to starting transcription.
- Often, financial resources for evaluation projects are limited. In an effort to keep the transcription process in-house, our administrative staff transcribed the audio files. By using the VRS and someone from our project team familiar with the data as the designated recorder, we have found savings in time and efficiencies.
- No transcription yet has captured 100% content accurately the first time. Therefore, build in time to listen to the recording and to make manual edits.
These resources may be helpful as you explore whether VRS is right for you.
- “The Voice Transcription Technique: Use of Voice Recognition Software to Transcribe Digital Interview Data in Qualitative Research” by Jennifer Matheson
- VRS products Review by consumersearch: “In reviews, it’s generally Dragon vs. Dragon”
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