Transcribing Audio Recordings

Recently, I was asked to transcribe some audio recordings. There are many tools that can aid in transcribing audio and/or video recordings. In this research tip we provide some information on various programs that may aid you in transcribing your data. Note that there are no free programs that will transcribe your data for you and the best way to get familiar with your data prior to coding is to listen and transcribe it yourself. Through the transcribing process you will start to notice emerging themes, so it is useful to consider transcribing as part of the qaultitative research process.

Program Functions Cost Pros Cons Recommendations
Express Scribe Can slow down the audio to make it easier to transcribe. Basic version is free.

Can use hotkeys to replay, stop, and play. Can type the transcription in the program and export as a txt file (can be used in Nvivo). Can import audio and video files to transcribe.

Can't sync the audio with the  transcription. Takes a little bit of time to get used to the hotkeys. If you are unable to use Nvivo, this is a good alternative to transcribe and then enter the saved txt files into Nvivo to code.
Dragon Transcribes audio. $75 Can transcribe audio files automatically. You have to train it to your voice, as such, it is not well suited for multiple speakers. Not suitable for interviews or media with multiple speakers.
InqScribe Can slow down the audio to make it easier to transcribe. Limited feature version is a free 14 day trial available, the full feature version is $99. Easy to use and the interface is nice. Able to use video and audio files.

The limited feature version will not let you save or export your transcriptions into another format to save and code, you have to order the full version to do so.

However, if you only want the transcribed text, you can copy the text and paste it in another word processor.

Additionally, there are no hotkeys available to aid in transcribing.

The limited free trial version is very limited. 
NVivo Can import audio/video and code the transcriptions or code the media directly. Installed on IRA workstations, there are 14 day trial versions available.

Can slow down the audio/video recordings.

Can code while transcribing.

Can synchorinize the audio and transcription.

Interrater relaiability on coding if there are multiple coders.    

Can code just the audio or video without transcribing.

Expensive and if remoting into the remote access workstations the researcher will need to do so over multiple sessions. Highly recommended.
Window player/Itunes and word/wordpad Free and easy to use.  Free Can play and pause, very basic. Can't slow down the audio recordings. Recommended if nothing else is available.

*If you are interested in buying or installing one of these programs, please click on the program name, this will open up a new window to the software's website.

Burke, Jenkins, and Higham (2010) provide a helpful toolkit on how to go about transcribing interviews and important things to consider. (

It may be necessary to try to remove from of the background noise in the audio files. One method is to download the open sourced audio editor Audicaty ( For information, see the following helpful tutorial video:


-Burke, H., Jenkins, L., and Higham, V. (2010, May). Toolkit 08: Transcribing your own qualitative data. Retrieved from


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.