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Transcribing Interviews

Reduce Transcription Costs and Bottlenecks with Speech Recognition

Transcribing Interviews

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 What's New in Dragon 12

Journalists, freelance writers, researchers and other staff that need to capture interview details in writing frequently look for an automated solution to transcribe their interviews. It can take hours to transcribe the text resulting from a brief phone interview, especially when an exact transcript is required.

Given its amazing recognition accuracy, many assume that Dragon speech recognition would be an ideal candidate for this task. The fact is that Dragon software was not designed to transcribe multiple voices. However, thousands of Dragon customers have successfully used the software to transcribe interviews using a basic technique called "voice writing" or "parroting." The key is how the interview content is delivered to Dragon.

Many people don’t realize that Dragon software is "speaker dependent" speech recognition. This means the software is designed to accurately transcribe the voice of a single speaker. When drafting an article or report, a user simply speaks out loud the text that he or she wants to appear on the screen. A user can complete articles and reports – either by dictating directly to the computer or by transcribing an electronic audio file of his/her voice from a digital recorder -- in a fraction of the time consumed by manual typing.

This changes when more than one speaker is introduced. Passing an audio file of an interview of two or more people directly to Dragon will not yield acceptable accuracy since the writer’s copy of Dragon is trained to recognize his/her own voice, not the voice of the person being interviewed. The “voice writing” approach delivers content to Dragon using only the voice of the trained speaker.

Simply record the interview that you plan to transcribe and download the electronic recording to your PC or Mac. Listen to the recording of the interview through the headphones of your Dragon headset. Activate your Dragon microphone and repeat the recorded text as you hear it. Speaking the text aloud in your own voice enables Dragon to accurately transcribe the audio using the Dragon profile tuned to your voice. Dragon turns your voice into text as quickly as you can speak the words – so there’s no need to constantly rewind the audio while you try to type out the corresponding text.

Learn more about Nuance’s efforts to provide equal access to information for students of all abilities. Research is currently underway to deliver real-time captioning and transcription of class lectures and other education media.


Journalists / Freelance Writers/Researchers

After recording an interview or meeting, writers often need to convert the audio file into a written transcript. Typing out the text of a 30-40 minute interview can often take 1-2 hours or more. The cost of outsourcing interviews can add up quickly. Instead, Dragon users can “re-speak” the audio from an interview for Dragon to transcribe. Since Dragon hears the text in only one speaker’s voice, it can be used to quickly transcribe the entire content of multi-party interviews or meetings.  


I'm a science journalist who writes for a number of print and Web-based publications. What many people don't understand about my kind of writing is that I don't actually spend a lot of time writing. Most of my time goes to collecting information--which often means recording interviews with scientists. And then moving on to the most painful part of my work: transcribing the interviews. And transcribing. And transcribing.... I dream that one of these days Dragon engineers will invent a version that can transcribe any voice it encounters. Until that magical day arrives, however, Dragon still provides a workaround that makes transcribing interviews lots easier for me.  Instead of playing back interviews and typing away, I play them back and dictate them, chunk by chunk, into the Dragon that's trained to my  voice. This gives me lots of flexibility. I can condense and paraphrase. I can skip the how-do-you-dos and other irrelevancies. And when scientists explain what they're up to really well, which they often do, I can dictate their exact words to quote in my article. Dragon is spectacularly good at picking up the spelling of names and technical terms in just one use. So I can count on getting a clean transcript with perfect spelling--and no typographical errors from my clumsy fingers. And I find transcribing-by-dictating a bit faster and much less tiring than pounding a keyboard for hours on end.

I'm a radio reporter who writes primarily on public health, health and medicine. But in my small newsroom (only 5 members), we all multi-task. I bought my Dragon two years ago, and it's completely changed my work life! Before, when I did interviews on the telephone, I struggled to keep up with note-taking, often missing opportunities to ask questions because I was too busy taking notes. Then, I had to go back and re-listen to the tape anyway, to fill in the holes where I could not transcribe conversations quickly enough. For interviews I do in person, I never was able to take notes... these interviews, done usually for more in-depth features... are frequently 30-40 minutes long. Then when I returned to the office, it would take me 2-4 times the length of the interview to transcribe the tape. That changed with Dragon. Now, I can record interviews, listening to what the subject actually has to say... that's because I now transcribe my taped interviews practically in real time with Dragon. I can quickly turn around stories in about a third of the time as before. I felt this most keenly this past winter. I received a grant to go to Africa to do a series of stories about global health. I returned with more than 50 hours of tape to transcribe - something that would have taken me 4-5 weeks of exclusive effort. Instead, I was able complete transcription of all the tape within 3 weeks, while also being able to complete my regular work. I recommend Dragon all the time to others in the radio community. It's made a real difference in my work life.

I'm a freelance writer. My work requires many phone interviews for story research, testimonial quotes, and enhanced biographies (extensive first-person quotes). I always record my interviews because I can't type as fast as people talk. Typically I have to go back and listen to the recording to fill in details. And when it's necessary to capture people's exact words, it becomes a transcription exercise.  Dragon is a lifesaver when I have a particularly long list of interviews to note-take or transcribe, as I do with one client for whom I have now done nearly 150 enhanced biographies. I listen to the playback in my earpiece and simultaneously dictate the playback into my mic. Dragon does the rest. Frankly, it doesn't make the task less tedious--but it does speed it up significantly!

As a freelance writer, I transcribe dozens of pages of interviews each week. Faced with a backlog of interviews to transcribe and fast-approaching deadlines two summers ago, I bought Dragon NaturallySpeaking to help me save my wrists and arms -- and my sanity! I now use Dragon frequently to transcribe interviews quickly and efficiently. It's simple: I play the downloaded digital recordings on my PC and repeat the interviewee's responses out loud. This has the added benefit of making me very familiar with my material before I begin writing. Now I'm helping my neighbor, who is paralyzed and has limited use of his hands, to learn how to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to use a computer for the first time in his life.

Case Studies

A Journalist's Assistant and Time Saver
Journalist Bryce Hubner relies on speech recognition to make him super productive and save a ton of time in the process.
 Read story


Dragon is packaged in multiple product editions with feature sets that vary based on user needs. Volume license discounts are available for organizations that plan to deploy Dragon speech recognition to multiple users.

·         For the PC: Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium is boxed for individual PC users. Learn More.

·         For the Mac: Dragon Dictate is available for individual Mac users. Learn More.

·         For volume licensing: Contact Nuance Sales at 

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