Module 6: Audio/Podcasting Workshop

6.7 Creating an Audio Transcript

Throughout this module, audio transcripts have been mentioned as essential for using audio in accessible ways. We often think of transcripts as an accessibility measure geared towards Deaf and hard-of-hearing populations. While meeting the access needs of Deaf and hard-of-hearing populations is enough of a justification for creating transcripts for audio content, we can think about transcripts serving broader access and support needs as well. An interesting 2015 study by Manako Yabe went so far as to study university student willingness to pay additional fees for university courses offered with online captioned lectures. Yabe found significant numbers of university students, both with and without disabilities, who would prefer, and in some cases pay extra for, classes that were captioned. Students cited reasons such as increased understanding of course materials, ease of note taking, studying convenience, and becoming more effective workers as primary benefits of written transcription (p. 779). The impacts of writing a transcript are worth the effort.

The aims of this section are two-fold. This section begins with general tips, tricks, and exercises that are useful in thinking about producing audio transcripts. We will then move on to three specific methods for creating an audio transcript.

Qualities of Strong Audio Transcripts

When we think about audio in terms of individual spoken words, transcription seems like a straightforward process. However, we now know that audio is much more than individual words. Take a moment to reflect on what you have learned about sound theory and use this to make some guesses about qualities that might be common in strong audio transcripts. Below is a list of possible answers to this prompt.


Developing a Transcript

From a Script

Many audio projects might involve a written script. One benefit of creating a script for your audio project is that it provides a solid foundation for a transcript. However, providing a script is not a substitute for creating a transcript. As we learned earlier, audio transcripts do not merely capture spoken language in audio. Audio transcripts also provide information about music and its emotional impact, sounds used to set a scene, and vocal tones that are used to create, enhance, or challenge meaning. Additionally, it is highly likely that you have veered away from your script, at least to some extent. While it may feel like your final project is close to your script, the differences may be more substantial than you think. It is wise to return and re-listen to your audio and use this to edit your transcript appropriately. Keep the following questions in mind when using your script to create a transcript:

  • Does the punctuation in your script match your tone of voice?
  • Are there areas where you are relying on auditory signals such as voice volume or pitch to communicate meaning? Is this adequately captured in your transcript?
  • Is there music or other sound effects in your audio file? Have you included both a description of the music or sound effect and an explanation of why you have chosen the clip/how you envision it adding meaning?
  • Have you included timestamps periodically so your audience can follow along?

Using Dictation Software

Not all audio projects have scripts to use as a foundation for creating transcripts. One way of creating a ‘foundation’ for your transcript is to use the dictate function offered in many popular word processing programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs. To create a basic foundation, open your word processor of choice, locate the dictation function, and then play your audio file. This will give a rough transcript. It is then up to makers to add punctuation, reformat and attend to spacing, fix incorrect words, describe sounds other than spoken language, and add time stamps. This can be a task, but it does save significant time when compared to typing a transcript from scratch.

Hiring a Transcription Service

Transcripts can be time-consuming, so some makers choose to hire a professional to transcribe their audio. There are a plethora of services available. Most services charge per minute of audio, but there may be extra charges depending on the services you need and even the type of audio you are transcribing. For example, services may charge more for transcribing content with specialized language, such as audio filled with medical and technical terms or audio that features words in another language. When hiring a transcription service, it may be useful to keep the following points in mind.

  • Is outsourcing transcription work a viable option given the financial constraints of the project?
  • Is the person or company I am hiring well-resourced in handling the content I need transcribed? (ex.- can they handle the technical terms used in my work?)
  • Will the transcriber edit or refine the transcript upon your request?
  • Is it ethical to hire outside transcription services? There may be situations where the audio you want to transcribe contains sensitive information meant only for a specific group of people. In this case, it is wise to consider ethics.


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Digital Methods for Disability Studies Copyright © 2022 by Esther Ignagni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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