What is a transcript?

A transcript is a hard (text) copy of a recorded interview. The audio file is copied word-for-word and serves as an easily accessible format for researchers to view the interview’s contents. Having transcriptions of recorded interviews also helps to preserve the original recorded document (digital audio file or cassette) by limiting its use and eventual wear-and-tear. The transcript, however, is not considered the primary document in an oral history collection; rather, the subject’s recorded voice is considered the primary document. Even so, a transcription is an invaluable tool in researching and archiving recorded oral histories.

How do I create a transcript?

The Southern Foodways Alliance accepts full transcripts only. Type the entire interview according to our transcription guidelines below.  By creating your own transcription of your owninterview, you can ensure the accuracy of your submission.

Please take a look at some of the oral histories on this website to get an idea of what a transcription looks like and how it should be formatted. Here are some tips for creating a full transcription of a recorded interview:

  • Always work with a COPY of the original recording.
  • It’s helpful to listen to the recording in its entirety in order to familiarize yourself with the voices and questions in the interview before beginning the transcription.
  • At the beginning of the transcript, type all pertinent information relating to the interview: Specific SFA oral history project (if applicable), name of interview subject, date, location, name of interviewer, length of interview in minutes.
  • The body text should have one-inch margins and be double-spaced.
  • Type the whole name of a speaker the first time it appears (i.e., Joe Smith); then use initials each time thereafter (i.e., JS). Use a colon to separate names and initials from text.
  • Try to represent each speaker’s words, conversational quality and speech patterns.
  • Interruptions in the interview (phone ringing, someone walking into the room, etc.) should be indicated by brackets containing an explanation of the interruption: [phone ringing] or [laughing] or [Subject asked to pause interview. Recorder turned off and then back on].
  • Obvious pauses in conversation should be noted in brackets: [short pause].
  • When a speaker does not finish a sentence, indicate this by using two dashes after the last word spoken and follow the appropriate end punctuation: “We thought we would be going but–.”
  • Ellipses (…) should NEVER be used in a transcription, for they indicate that something has been left out. As a general rule, anywhere you feel inclined to use ellipses (…), use the double-dash (–).
  • Counter numbers or time references should be noted periodically throughout the transcript as reference points and placed in brackets: [056] (counter reference) or [1:32] (time reference).
  • If a word or phrase is inaudible, try listening to it again. If, after three reviews, you still cannot decipher what is being said, make the indication in brackets: [unintelligible phrase].
  • Indicate the beginning of a audio file or side of a tape by placing the appropriate information in brackets where the change happens in the transcript: [End Jane Doe 1 OR End of Tape 1, Side B].
  • Indicate the end of the interview by stating so in brackets: [END JANE DOE]
  • Give a copy of the transcript to the interviewee for review before submitting it to the archive. Inevitably, some information will need clarification, and it is easiest to get clarification from the source. Inform the interviewee that their role is to check the accuracy of the transcription, not to edit its contents. Reading the transcript might also spark reason for a follow-up interview.
  • Your final transcript should be submitted as both a hard copy (print out) and computer file (Microsoft Word format).

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