Transcription: Verbatim, Intelligent Verbatim or Discourse Analysis?
One of the first decisions that needs to be made when ordering a transcription (or even typing up your own) is which is the best format: verbatim, intelligent verbatim or discourse analysis? If you choose the right format for you, you will be left with a perfectly coherent transcription suitable for your purposes, but choose the wrong one and you could be left disappointed and even confused. So what are the different types exactly and when should or shouldn’t they be used?
We’ll start with the most commonly requested format: Intelligent Verbatim. Intelligent verbatim means that we take out all ‘Ahs, erms’ and other unnecessary noises that humans tend to make. Repeated words will often be omitted if they don’t add anything, as will those irritatingly common words: ‘Kind of, sort of’, etc. The other major point is that slang words will be suitably amended. So, ‘Gonna’ will become, ‘Going to,’ and, ‘Wanna,’ will become, ‘Want to.’ Typing a transcript using intelligent verbatim makes it far easier to digest and understand and also gives the feel of a more professional read. If you’re looking to dictate a letter, you will obviously want to use intelligent verbatim but when else is this format right?
Intelligent verbatim is commonly used for transcripts that will be circulated on a corporate basis. For example, if you’re a director sending out a transcript of your last big conference to help your employees understand and respect the goals of your business, do you really want them to have to trail through endless, ‘Erms, ahs,’ and, ‘Wannas’. Intelligent verbatim is best when you want to make a good impression with your transcription. It’s often used in finance, medical, property and generic market research transcripts.
So from what we read above, we can gather that Verbatim will include those ‘Erms, ahs’ and, ‘Wannas’ that some wish to avoid. That’s right! Including these can sometimes enlighten a reader to a deeper understanding and insight to what was going on in a respondent’s mind when they were answering a question. For example, let’s say we were to ask a defendant on a charge of theft, “Did you steal that tin of beans?” An intelligent verbatim transcription may read, “No.” However, a verbatim one could read, “Er, er, no.” As you can see, the ‘ers’ here really do add a different level of understanding to what is going on. It also gives us a clearer picture of the character of the speaker. Where intelligent verbatim will sound very professional, it doesn’t always convey the nature of the respondent quite so well as verbatim. Verbatim can also be a useful choice if you want full control over your transcript and though you might not want those ‘ahs’ and ‘erms’, you would prefer to have everything transcribed ‘as is’ and make all omission decisions yourself. Verbatim is used mostly for legal transcription, including Court hearings, police transcription and even employee disciplinary meetings. Market research companies may also request this format as it can give further meaning to respondents’ answers.
So lastly, Discourse Analysis. This style is for those who want to look into and analyse conversations even deeper than those typed as Verbatim. Discourse analysis includes every ‘ah’ and ‘erm’ but not only that; changes in pitch, tone and emotion are recorded when noticed in the recording. For example, what would be indicated as a pause in an intelligent verbatim or verbatim transcript will be specifically measured in terms of length in discourse analysis. Discourse analysis can be really useful in legal work and is often also requested by students carrying out research work for dissertations, where it is crucial nothing is missed.
So that’s what the three types mean. From there, I guess it’s your choice which one is best. Obviously, the more detail captured, the more time spent typing, and consequently, the more money you’ll spend but we think it’s important you get the transcription you want, exactly as you want it!