13 November 2014

Catch a mouse; kill the pain!

After nearly 12 years and thousands and thousands of hours of professional transcription at King Audio Transcription & Typing Services, I guess it was inevitable that I would suffer from some form of arm pain, tennis elbow or RSI-type symptoms predominantly in my right arm. 

After some research on the internet I discovered that a vertical mouse may help with these symptoms.

I was amazed to find a vertical mouse on Amazon for under £9 as usually any equipment which is designed to help with health problems is very expensive.

At this price I thought it’s worth a try to help make transcription more comfortable and if it doesn’t work, then I haven’t made a huge investment in this equipment.

The vertical mouse does look a lot different than a conventional mouse and I thought it would take a long time to get used to. However, I have found the vertical mouse very easy and comfortable to use whilst transcribing and generally using my PC.

After a short period of time, just a couple of weeks, I have noticed a big reduction in the arm pain I have been experiencing. This has vastly improved my comfort whilst transcribing for my clients.

I would recommend this mouse to anyone who experiences arm pain associated with mouse use and particularly transcribers.

17 October 2014

Interview Transcription Recording Guide

Imagine the scenario: you have set up an appointment to interview someone; you arrive, set up your recording equipment and spend some productive time getting some great material from the interviewee. However, upon checking the recording later you find there is so much background noise that you can hardly hear what the interviewee is saying.

King Audio Transcription & Typing Services gives the following advice for recording interviews for transcription.

  • Check out your recording equipment before your interview(s) is scheduled. Play with your equipment, become familiar with it. Try recording yourself and experiment with the distance of the microphone.

  • If possible practice recording your interview in the location where the interview will actually take place this will give you a good idea of the acoustics in that location: 

    • placing the mic on a soft surface e.g. a cushion can improve the sound quality 

    • carpeted rooms reduce echo

  • Listen to your practice interview recording using headphones. It may sound completely different to the way it sounds on the device.

  • An interview recording with a very low volume can be as troublesome to an interview transcriber as a recording with a noisy background so try to ensure that the finished interview recording can be turned up to an audible level without distortion. 

  • Choose the quietest environment available to you; a busy restaurant is not an ideal environment for carrying out an interview that you will be sending to an interview transcriber.

  • Turn off mobile phones. When a mobile phone searches for network coverage it interferes with recording equipment and can obscure voices even when set to silent or vibrate modes.

  • Do not use voice activation when recording your interviews as words can be lost if there is a slight delay.

Remember, the clearer the recording the more accurate and complete the interview transcription will be.

Interview recordings can take hours to transcribe so if you have the choice of using a professional transcriber, King Audio Transcription & Typing Services can help you to keep up the pace.

Contact King Audio Transcription & Typing Services for an interview transcription quote by visiting the contact page to complete the form or drop us an email with your requirements. We will provide a prompt interview transcription quotation for your consideration. 

21 June 2014

The FTW Transcriber: Review

I got quite excited when I looked at The FTW Transcriber website and read all the wonderful functions this transcription software supposedly has, in particular the automatic timestamping functions.

Unfortunately my excitement was short lived.

I downloaded the FTW transcription software and was informed during the download process that I would be prompted to download three sets of codecs too. Okay fine, no problem, did that.

I opened the FTW transcriber software and tried to explore the timestamping capabilities, which I was most interested in and was very disappointed to get the message box as pictured telling me that I need to upgrade to the paid version of the transcription software if I want to use these functions.

To upgrade it's 'around' $1 per month. On exploring the website in more depth it becomes apparent that it's only $1 per month if you pay $24 for the year upfront, otherwise it's $10 per month.

It would have been great to be able to try out the automatic timestamping functions as part of the free download, even if it was just for a fixed period of time. 

The FTW transcription software will not play sound files longer than 60 minutes long unless you upgrade. I often have sound files in excess of 60 minutes long to transcribe, so the free version of the FTW transcription software is pretty useless to me. 

Whilst trying out the FTW transcriber software I had an issue with my transcription foot pedal functions. It would rewind but fast forward didn't work. 

The FTW transcriber software doesn't load sound files in the same way as ExpressScribe transcription software (ES), instead it plays them direct from your hard drive, which the website claims makes the sound quality superior to ES transcription software. I actually found the sound on the sound file I was using crackled, but when played in ExpressScribe transcription software it didn't crackle.   

I like ExpressScribe transcription software because I can load all my sound files into it and the files are listed on the ES transcription software interface. This enables me to keep track of my transcription projects. As far as I could see the FTW transcriber software does not do this as the sound file is played direct from your hard drive. This was a big downside for me as I would have to use a different method of keeping track of my transcription projects. 

The FTW transcriber software also seemed to be unstable as the recording jumped back to the beginning on more than one occasion.

All in all I was disappointed with The FTW Transcriber software and will be sticking with ExpressScribe transcription software for my transcriptions at King Audio Transcription & Typing Services 

03 May 2014

Nuisance sales calls getting you down? This may help.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I expect most of us have experienced unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls whilst we’re working or cooking the dinner and know how distracting it can be.

I have been running my transcription services business, KATTS, since 2003 so my telephone number has been in the public domain for a long time. I have always received these ‘nuisance’ calls but I've got to say that in 2011 it got to choke point. I was receiving so many calls, not only from pushy sales people but also automated calls that I actually stopped answering the phone.

This had a very detrimental effect on my business as I wasn't picking up new business enquiries unless they came via email. Even more worrying was it was really getting me down emotionally.

A family member told me about the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the free opt out service enabling you to record your preference on the official register to not receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls in the UK.

‘It is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have your consent to do so.’

I had heard about the TPS a year or so before this but I was a bit worried about registering in case people who needed to reach me were barred from getting through by telephone. However, things had reached such a point that I wasn't answering my phone anyway so I thought I had nothing to lose.

I now know that my worry was unfounded because the TPS doesn't work by barring calls, it merely adds your number to a register.

Registering with the TPS was really easy; I registered my telephone number online through their website. The TPS information states ‘it is a legal requirement for telemarketers not to call a TPS subscribed number after 28 days, but you should start noticing a gradual decline from registration’. This is absolutely true.

I have now been registered with the TPS for since 2011 and I would highly recommend it; I am so happy with the results. The telemarketing calls did reduce quite dramatically. If I get any marketing calls now I tell them I am registered with the TPS and generally they apologise and go away.

I can now focus on my transcription services in relative peace and quiet without the phone ringing every five minutes, which is bliss.

For more information or to register with the TPS visit their website at http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/index.html.

If you feel inclined to like and share this article I would be very grateful.

About the author: Sarah King established KATTS professional transcription services in 2003 and specialises in transcription of interviews, conferences and focus groups.

Please visit King Audio Transcription & Typing Services for more information about transcription services.


28 April 2014

Surviving a PhD: Tips and Tools

I read an interesting article in the Guardian about people carrying out their PhDs - something I haven't done myself. However, I have worked with a lot of PhD students providing them with research interview transcription support.  

It seems that some PhD students are concerned that universities and supervisors are not giving students enough support. Whilst the nature of a PhD is to do independent research, some feel that more support and pastoral care is needed. 

'Why is it, you might be asking yourself, that very bright, talented individuals clutching phenomenal CVs and apparently facing a world of opportunities, are suffering constant self-doubt, depression, anxiety and burnout?'

It strikes me that doing a PhD can be a very lonely place for some students. However, there is a brighter side with some useful survival tips and tools. 

I've tried to pull out the poignant points from the author of the article and comments from PhD students, although for more detail and to see the contributors I advise you to read the article and comments yourself by following the link below. 

PhD Survival Tips and Tools

  • Focus: one of the most important tools to get through a PhD - embrace the fact that we don't and can't know everything and that a PhD gives us the possibility to "learn for a living".
  • Exercise was mentioned both in the article and in the comments on numerous occasions as a way of keeping mentally and physically fit during a PhD. It's also a good way of making time for yourself without feeling guilty about not working as exercise will enhance your performance. 
  • Keep up with your friends who have jobs - make time to see them and don't hide away in your ivory tower.
  • Treat your PhD like a job - this might involve overtime, bosses you don't like, unpleasant colleagues etc, but that's life.
  • Don't define yourself by the PhD before, during or after the process. You are a human being with a life that includes a PhD. 
  • Don't compare your progress to others. Different projects and different strengths = different trajectories. The speed of completion is of little to no matter once you've got the PhD.
  • It's your PhD. Not your supervisor's, not your department's. Obviously they guide you, but they should not and do not have power of veto. Levels of control tend to vary by discipline, but ultimately you should be able to choose your own approach (and defend it of course).
  • Take time off. It doesn't matter if that's weekends, mornings, evenings, or 12-3 every day. Whatever rhythm of work suits you. But do take it off, and enjoy it - you do not have to constantly work.
  • 'nagging guilt that haunts relaxation'
  • Work expands to fill the space dedicated to it. Therefore early on you should leave space in your working week to expand into. You have much less going on early in the PhD, and it will get busier. If you begin by doing 10 hour days, 7 days a week in the first year, you won't have any room to expand into in your final years. Clearly there's a minimum level of time commitment required, but I'd advise first years to work 4-4.5 days a week, leaving room for expansion. The people who I saw struggle most in years 3 and 4 were those who'd started off working 45 hour + weeks.
  • Consider house mates: living with people in your department can create a powder-keg of comparison, competition and stress. Households with PhD students from multiple-disciplines often work well - the different working patterns, stories and expectations you hear from other disciplines can provide context for your own work.
  • Admit when you are struggling and seek help.
  • Focusing on the moment helps us separate our feelings about our PhDs from the task at hand. We need to identify the negative associations that have tainted the picture of it over time, and then set them to one side.
  • You are responsible for managing your PhD, but others (your supervisor, primarily) should help. If the relationship is not going well, there is a lot of advice on how to improve it – just type ‘managing your supervisor’ into Google.
  • Taking part in wider courses or training that isn't directly related to your research is still important. It can act as a distraction from research, may open new opportunities and, most importantly, is useful from a future career standpoint. 

Other tools and advice were: 
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) 
  • meditation and yoga 
  • others found strength in religion, or insights from ancient Greek philosophy 
  • creative outlets and sports for motivation and health
'I'm convinced that we can learn from each other and don't have to constantly reinvent the PhD wheel of wisdom.'
The article I used to collate the above information is called 'How to stay sane through a PhD: get survival tips from fellow students posted by Inez von Weitershausen in Guardian Professional on 20 March 2014.

I hope you have found something in the above that will help you through your PhD journey. 

My name is Sarah King and I own KATTS offering professional transcription services and specialising in interview transcription. As I mentioned at the beginning, I have helped many PhD students with their research interview transcription

Please visit King Audio Transcription & Typing Services for more information about the transcription services I provide and feel free to contact me if you would like a transcription quote. 

If you feel inclined to like and share this information I would be very grateful. 

16 April 2014

Interview types: Structured, semi-structured, and unstructured

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As King Audio Transcription has been specialising in interview transcription for over 11 years, I was interested to come across an interesting article about Interview types.

The article describes the differences between the three types of interviews i.e. structured, semi-structured and unstructured.

If you are going to be carrying out research interviews it is well worth a read. Click here to go to the article. 

The article suggests that you should choose your interview type wisely and I would like to add that it is also important to consider budget, both in terms of time and money.  

As the article suggests, unstructured interviews will normally be longer than the structured and semi-structured types of interviews. However, I would suggest that it is wise to consider the following important questions for all types of interviews: 

  • If you are planning to transcribe the interviews yourself will you have sufficient time in order to complete the transcription?

  • If you are planning to outsource the interview transcription to a professional transcription services company have you got enough money in your budget to cover the cost?
As mentioned earlier, King Audio Transcription has been specialising in the transcription of all three types of interviews: structured, semi-structured and unstructured since 2003 and I would be happy to give you a quote for your interview transcription. 

If you would like some more information, including interview recording advice, please visit the interview transcription page at King Audio Transcription to find out more.  

05 March 2014

Focus Group Transcription - Table Planner Tool

Focus group formats can vary; in some focus groups each speaker will say their name each time before they speak, or sometimes the speakers do not need to be identified. These two formats make focus group transcription much easier and can reduce the cost of having focus groups transcribed. 

And then there are focus groups in which all the participants in the focus group need to be identified in the transcript. Each participant will say a little bit about themselves at the beginning and then it is up to the transcriber to recognise their voices thereafter. This makes the focus group transcription a longer and more complicated process as recognising voices from a recording is not easy and can involve flicking backwards and forwards in the recording. Transcription of this format will obviously cost more. 

How can a wedding planning site provide a fantastic tool
for focus group transcription?

For the transcription of this format it is necessary for the transcriber to make notes about each participant in order to help with the identification of their voice each time they speak. 

I am working on this type of focus group at the moment and I wanted a table plan template where I could make notes about each participant and have a visual cue of them sitting around a table. 

So I searched the internet and found this wedding planning website that has downloadable table planner templates, which was exactly what I was looking for.  

This is a great little tool to help with focus group transcription, so simple and yet very effective. 

UPDATE: This is what the table planner tool looks like when in use. It certainly makes focus group transcription more fun. 

If you would like a quote for focus group transcription please visit King Audio Transcription & Typing Services and contact me for a quotation.

27 January 2014

Interview Transcription Notation

There are several different conventions for transcript notation in interview transcription, some of which are based on the 'Jefferson System', named after Gail Jefferson. This very technical system was developed for Conversation Analysis (CA) and uses a series of symbols to denote certain events within a conversation. 

Invariably during interview transcription at King Audio Transcription there are certain events that need to be denoted in the transcript. Since 2003, I have only been asked to use a variant on the Jefferson System on one occasion. As I was unfamiliar with this system it took quite some time to get to grips with it. As it was a short transcription I had to use a reference guide for each notation. Quite time-consuming when one is not used to it, although a brilliant system for very technical analysis.

In the main, the interview transcription I work on at KATTS does not need this degree of technical notation. Indeed, using a system such as the Jefferson System would incur a premium rate as I would have to learn the system on the job so it would increase transcription time. 

Instead KATTS uses a less technical technique for transcription notation in interview transcription, which is used by many transcribers in the transcription services industry. There is no need for a separate reference guide to understand what is happening during an interview as the notations are fairly self-explanatory. 

Interview Transcription Notation:

[laughs], [laughingly], [wry laugh]
[multiple speakers]
Other descriptors such as [shouts], [loud], [quiet], [whispers], [coughs], [break] etc.

((?00:00)) = an inaudible word or words (00:00 would be replaced with the time in the recording)

((?word)) = a guess at a word if not clear

((sp?)) = placed after a word denotes unsure of spelling if correct spelling 
cannot be found through internet research

wor... = a word that cuts off sharply

... = change of subject direction or sentence that cuts off or is interrupted

word = emphasised words emboldened

In the main, the descriptors are used in verbatim interview transcription, where every event and utterance must be noted, including 'ums' and 'uhs' spoken by the participants. If fully verbatim is not required then these descriptors are not usually included. 

However, in non-verbatim interview transcription inaudible words, spelling queries and word and sentence cut off would be indicated by the notations above.  

For more information please visit the interview transcription page at the King Audio Transcription main website. Alternatively contact us for a quick interview transcription quote via the contact page at King Audio Transcription.