Monday, 23 May 2022

Conventions for transcriptions

When we are transcribing, we need to decide what conventions we are going to use. Will we do a verbatim transcript, and if so, how much of a verbatim transcript will that be? It is helpful to read a number of qualitative method specialists to give us the broadest possible overview of the scholarship and rationale in this field so we can make informed choices about the tools which are available to us. 

In the past I have chosen in the past to use a fairly verbatim account, in plain English as per SaldaƱa’s documented method (2009), which and can be easily read and sets up some notation conventions, to then be thematically analysed, as follows:

I am not drawn to using Kvale’s (2007, p. 96) more sophisticated linguistic annotations shown below which details is a transcription of a sequence of telephone conversation, presented here to demonstrate the complexities of transcription for special purposes, in this case for a conversation analysis:

Once we have determined our transcript purpose, we establish those transcription conventions which will assist us to appropriately analyse our data. Then we apply them to all the recordings gathered for our project. For example, for one piece of research on case study discussion methods, I used the following conventions:

00.00 time notation for when participants start speaking
Silence for a pause of more than a few seconds
(indecipherable) for unclear speech
[lecturer] for a lecturer speaking
[student] for each new student speaker
[students] when a number of student speakers speak together
(laughter) for general merriment
(general agreement) when a number of students provide support during a student’s reply

I hope this helps anyone who is trying to work through transcription decisions, as well as providing a couple of invaluable sources to read.



  • Kvale, S. (2007). Doing Interviews (The Sage Qualitative Research Kit). Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Saldana, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Sage Publications, Inc.

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