How To Choose The Correct Academic Transcription Services For Your Needs

Are you tired of writing notes down so fast that you can’t make out what they say later? As a teacher, are you looking for ways to improve your classes? You’ve likely considered academic transcription as a viable option for your problems. However, if you haven’t tested the waters, it can be challenging to know what to look for. Ideally, you need a transcription service that guarantees high accuracy rates and a fast turnaround time. 

how to choose the correct academic transcription services

It’s important to know that not all transcription services are the same. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what kind of transcription service benefits students, teachers, and researchers the most. At the end we will show you how to choose the correct academic transcription services company for your needs.

Table of Contents 

  1. What Is Academic Transcription?
  2. Transcript Options for Academic Transcription
  3. How Academic Transcription Can Help You
  4. AI Transcription or Human Transcription?
  5. Academic Transcription Service Checklist
  6. Downloadable Transcription Service Checklist PDF
  7. What Will You Choose for Your Academic Transcription Needs?


What Is Academic Transcription?

If you’re in an important lecture and get an infodump that you know you won’t remember, it can be beneficial to have a transcription of that session. Video and audio recordings are all great. However, a text version of your lecture, class, dictation, research session, etc., can be a lot easier to search when you’re looking for specific data in an hour’s worth of conversation. 

That’s where academic transcription comes in. Instead of bending over backward to take notes, you can focus on the ideas being conveyed. You’ll also have more time to ask questions and have higher engagement overall. 

Academic transcription is a beneficial tool for students, researchers, and professors. As a teacher, you can review your own lectures in written form, providing opportunities to see where you can improve and expand on explanations. 

As a student, it can completely change your habits. Your productivity can increase because:

  • You’ll have more time to develop and improve the quality of school projects.
  • The entire team can participate in group meetings as nobody is assigned as the note taker. 
  • You’ll have full control of the information you receive since you’ll no longer be taking sloppy notes or brain-mapping. 
  • You can highlight notes, share, and find information much more effortlessly. 

Getting a transcript is as easy as setting a SmartPhone or a handheld digital recorder on the table and pressing the record button. You can even take a video. It’s essential to make sure the audio quality is good, so it’s best without music or loud background noises. 

Transcriptionists can transcribe low audio quality. However, the cost of your transcript will be higher since it takes more time to transcribe. 

Most transcription services can transcribe anything academic-related. Below is a list of common document requests for different purposes:

  • Transcription for students 
  • Academic research 
  • Academic symposia
  • Group discussions
  • University research 
  • Academic interviews
  • Oral history  
  • Theses
  • Student interviews
  • Seminars 
  • Research 
  • Dissertations 
  • Essays 
  • Lectures 
  • Conferences 

Do you need a specific format? You might be dealing with spreadsheets, menus, label cards, statistical information, or booklets.

The transcription service you choose should take requests and work with you to deliver your project needs. 


Transcript Options for Academic Transcription

The academic world can benefit most from two types of transcription: verbatim and cleaned-up verbatim.

A verbatim transcript includes everything from uhms, likes, and errs, to pauses between speakers. When someone requests a verbatim transcript, they are looking for a transcript that includes false starts, grammatical errors, and verbal cues that can provide context to the document. 

Here’s an example of a verbatim transcript: 

how to choose the correct academic transcription services

Qualitative researchers use verbatim transcripts as a common strategy for data management. It helps analyze and interpret verbal data, which has become beneficial, especially for healthcare research. 

When are verbatim transcripts helpful? 

Verbatim transcripts provide context that a cleaned-up transcript lacks. On a verbatim transcript, you’ll be able to see non-speech words such as “mm-hmm (affirmative)” and “mm-hm (negative).” This in-depth transcript is excellent when conducting focus groups and quoting sources. 

The other popular choice for academics is a cleaned-up transcript, which looks like this: 

how to choose the correct academic transcription services for your needs

With cleaned up verbatim, the text file has been slightly edited for better readability. It’s still precise and can deliver context. There is no rephrasing, and stutters and other distractions are taken out. Which makes it easier to read.

Some examples of things removed during the transcription process of a cleaned up transcript are:

  • Filler words like “err,” “uhm,” and “like”
  • Interjections from other speakers like “yeah,” and “uh huh”
  • Throat clearing and coughing
  • False starts
  • Run-on sentences
  • Unintentional repetition of words or phrases
  • Background noises and people speaking

When is a cleaned-up transcript helpful?

Cleaned-up transcripts are best for class notes, academic interviews, group discussions, dissertation interviews, and anything where you’ll be sharing the transcript with peers or studying it for exams. 

It’s clean, rid of distractions, and concise, which is better for highlighting sections or quickly finding data within the document. It’s also more professional for sharing with other professionals or students. 

When you work with an academic transcription service, you can also count on speaker identification and timestamps. 

Speaker identification is helpful when you have a group discussion with multiple people or to define the individuals in a one-on-one conversation like an interview.  

Here’s an example of speaker labels: 

how to choose the correct academic transcription services

There are different ways to do speaker recognition labels:

  • In numbers: speaker 1, speaker 2, speaker 3
  • By gender: male speaker, female speaker
  • By role: interviewee and interviewer
  • By name: Rich, Sally, Laura

A reliable transcription service will review your audio and suggest the best speaker identification format for you. 

On top of speaker identification, you can have your transcript time stamped. 

Timestamps align the transcript’s text to the recording by inserting timestamps at specific intervals. It’s usually considered as an add-on service and is best for types of market research transcriptions. 

If you think your transcripts require speaker identification and timestamps, let the provider know beforehand.


How Academic Transcription Can Help You

Let’s look at transcription’s real benefits for students and teachers. 

For Students

Focus in Class

Writing notes can make it hard to keep up with the lesson and be distracting. In the end, you may end up with messy, unreadable notes and no clear idea of what was covered in the class. 

Your class transcript can be made into readable and organized notes that you can study and highlight. 

Stay Ahead of Group Projects

With everyone talking and ideas being thrown around, it can be challenging to keep track of everything unless there’s a note-taker. To not disadvantage a teammate who is taking notes, set a SmartPhone on the table and press record.

A good transcription service is made of transcriptionists who are capable of differentiating speakers. You can even request speaker identification to be clear on who said what. Once you have the transcript, either send it to your teammates or print it and give it to them as a paper copy. 

Reference to Information for Homework and Studying

Possibly the most considerable benefit of having a transcript is using it to complete homework or study for an upcoming exam. 

When we visit reading vs. listening and which is better, reading is a much more efficient way of learning for many students. Humans can so easily be distracted, and speaking is linear. There’s no way for a listener to “rewind” what the speaker said and go over the idea again. A text document, however, can be re-read until the reader understands the context and absorbs the information. 

Experience Less Pressure

Many students experience the pressure of keeping up with notes while the professor races through topics. You write as fast as you can, and the quicker you write, the messier your handwriting gets, and the less you’re able to concentrate on what the teacher is saying. You may get to the point where you are so behind on notes that you put the pen down and rely on your memory. 

If this is happening, it could be why you are struggling with your grades, and you feel as if you don’t learn anything. By recording the class, you can focus on the topics, engage, and have your audio file transcribed for the class’s complete notes.

For Educators

Save You Time 

How many times has a student interrupted your lecture and asked you to repeat yourself? What about writing every important point down on the whiteboard? All of these actions take valuable time out of your class. 

Recording an audio file of your lecture, getting it transcribed, then uploading the file to the class’s online platform, or sharing physical copies is an excellent way to save you time and make sure the students have all the important class information. 

Provides Learning Alternatives

Some students have extremely short attention spans and can’t concentrate for an entire class, no matter how interactive and entertaining it is. You may also have students that are deaf or hard of hearing. It’s vital that, as a teacher, you provide learning alternatives to your students. 

Improve Gaps in Lectures

Like football players re-watching their games, seeing what you said, the topics you covered, and how you answered questions can give you a fresh perspective on your work and how you can improve.

You can also build on these transcripts by adding notes or taking out parts and use the improved version for future classes. 

Quick and Easy Study Material For English as a Second Language Students

The average acceptance rate for international students across US universities is 45%. For your international students, providing a transcript is crucial. Many non-native English speakers struggle with the oral part of the lecture and appreciate having a written copy. As a teacher, you can help your international students get the best out of their education. 

The Best File Formats For Transcription Services

If this is your first time choosing an academic transcription service, knowing which file format is best can be daunting. Is it compatible? What about the upload speeds? Is the audio quality good enough?

Most experienced transcription services are relaxed about the file format you can submit to them. Regardless, the following formats are widely accepted across most transcription services:

Audio files 

  • Uncompressed (PCM, WAV): An uncompressed audio file is untampered with and is made of sound waves that are captured then converted to a digital formal with zero processing. This file format gives you the highest file quality possible, which can only be hindered if the microphone you use is low-quality. 
  • Compressed (MP3, WMA, AAC): Compressed file formats offer small size, making transfers between networks and devices faster. The file also holds the same audio quality as uncompressed unless you compress it too much. Over compressing causes the sound to lose some of its character. 
  • Lossless (FLAC, WMA, ALC): This type of file reduces the file size without compromising the audio quality. It takes more time to convert, and the files remain larger than their lossy counterparts. However, using lossless files is the best way to have smaller file sizes and clear audio quality. 

Video Files

  • MOV, MP4, or AVI: Digital video files are much larger than audio files. Compression is extremely important. Most video cameras render video in MOV, MP4, or AVI format, accepted by most transcription services.
  • RED, ARRIRAR: Professional cameras may produce files such as R3D from RED digital cameras or ARRIRAW from the ARRI group. If you’re using a high-end camera, you’ll need to process and convert the file formats before they can be uploaded because they will be too large. 

In general, the file you wish to upload isn’t the most concerning. You should pay more attention to the audio quality of the device you use and the size of the file you wish to upload. 


AI Transcription or Human Transcription?

When it comes to academic transcription, you have two choices —AI transcription or human transcription. Each option has its pros and cons, and your preference will depend on how important accuracy is to you.

Free AI Transcription Apps

how to choose the correct academic transcription services

AI transcription apps like Google Docs voice Typing and Google’s Live Transcribe are free and have millions of users each month. 

These apps use Google’s automatic speech recognition technology, which works pretty accurately when one speaker talks slowly with explicit emphasis on each word. On the other hand, fast speakers often confuse the app, words get mixed up, and even sentences auto-correct to misconstrued versions. 

Google’s WER (word error rate) is 15.1%. This means there’s a chance of 226 errors in a 1,500-word transcript.

A review of Google’s Live Transcribe by Your Story shares that after trying two languages in a crowded street in Delhi (English with an Indian accent and Hindi), Hindi resulted in a much lower WER. For English, the app kept constructing one sentence out of three-four spoken lines. There were also many misinterpreted words. Simply put, the app did not deliver satisfying results. 

Imagine if you are in a group discussion with multiple people and English isn’t a native language for some. The transcription app would likely deliver very unsatisfying results. 

Another major disadvantage is the limited features. Do you need to transcribe high volumes of audio or video files? Most free tools don’t allow you to do this quickly and effectively. Also, free tools often aren’t complex enough to pick up on nuances and improve with time, resulting in manual processes and editing for their users. 

The point is: a free transcription tool won’t take a chip out of your budget, and you can get reasonably high accuracy rates for personal notes. The trouble comes when you have more than one speaker, background noises, and people with accents, which harm accuracy rates and cause you to spend time picking through, editing, and rebuilding the entire transcript.

Paid AI Transcription Apps

Paid transcription tools offer more features than free ones. To begin with, you can upload bulk audio and video files. Some paid tools can even differentiate multiple speakers and add speaker recognition. 

Most paid tools are designed to get better with use. In other words, they utilize natural language processing and algorithms to improve the understanding of users, cadences, and accents with increased usage. And most have built-in integrations with platforms you’re using for classes and lectures like Zoom. Some AI transcription paid apps have two-way integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, to name a few. You can automatically pull recorded audio and video files for transcription and return them to the same folders once transcribed. 

Since humans are not handling it, the turnaround time can be as fast as five minutes, which helps keep your busy schedule on track.

The features are pretty robust. However, even paid AI transcription apps aren’t perfect. With an average accuracy of 80%, paid AI transcription apps can’t even begin to compete with the human brain when understanding intricate conversation details. That’s also why software algorithms can be fooled easily, whereas humans can make out specific words and phrases. 

Paid apps and free apps share the same issue regarding accents. Accuracy rates typically slip to 60% when an accent is introduced. 


Because AI transcription is “trained” to listen to “general American” accents. Consider all the accents of your students or classmates. With students from all over the US and some international countries, your transcript’s accuracy rate can struggle significantly. 

The inability to be understood by AI systems also impacts other marginalized communities. People with disabilities who rely on voice recognition and speech-to-text tools depend on accuracy to be understood. “This is only going to work for one subset of the population who can be understood by [automated speech recognition] systems,” says Allison Koenecke, a computer graduate student and first author of a study on Racial disparities in automated speech recognition. 

So if the accuracy rate isn’t the best, why do people pay for AI transcription apps?

  • When speed is prioritized over accuracy
  • A rough draft is good enough
  • They have a lot of time to edit the transcript
  • For researching keywords and specific quotes

AI transcription tools are cheaper than human transcription services. You can find paid AI tools that transcribe anywhere from $0.10 to $0.25 per minute. As we learned above, if the speakers have accents or speech disabilities, that transcript’s accuracy may not come out nearly as how you expected.

You could end up editing the entire transcript to make it usable for study material or class notes. Having said that, paid AI tools may not be the best for every academic situation.  

The best accuracy rates will show when you get single speaker notes and one-on-one interviews with clear words and “standard American English.” 

Human Transcription Services

The biggest difference between AI and human transcription is the accuracy outcome. Humans and machines are non-comparable. We, humans, understand context, can make out words in noisy places, and we know grammar and the difference between “their”, “they’re”, and “there.”

A US-based human transcription service can guarantee a 99% accuracy rate. That means out of 1,500 words, the transcript will have no more than 15 errors. Most of these will be slight punctuation errors and nothing that affects the transcript’s meaning. 

Another factor that ties into high accuracy rates is editing. Once the transcriptionist finishes transcribing, they’ll go over it again to make adjustments. The transcript is then sent to a quality assurance team that reviews the audio file and transcript for any leftover errors. There’s not much room for anything to slip, and that’s why such high accuracy rates are guaranteed. 

Next, you can clearly explain to your transcriptionist what your project needs are. Do you need a particular format? Are speaker recognition and timestamps necessary? They can even tell you if verbatim or a cleaned up verbatim transcript is better for your specific project. 

Human transcription is an excellent option for students, teachers, and researchers who want to have a transcript that’s ready to use immediately. 

It’s important to understand that not all human transcription services are equal — Some transcription services that cater to clients in the US send your files to other countries like India, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. It’s called offshore transcription. 

The transcription company may be from the US. However, to save on wages, they send the work and hire transcribers in developing economies, hence pay less and make more. 

What does this mean for you? It means your files are sent all over the world and handled by non-native English speakers. While these transcriptionists are generally highly educated and experienced, they may have issues understanding context and lack knowledge in American terms. For example, “Thanksgiving” can be interpreted as “thanks for giving,” totally changing the transcript’s meaning. 

On top of that, overseas human transcription companies often charge extra for less-than-perfect audio files. For example, files with accents and background noises may have an additional charge of $0.50 per audio minute. So you end up paying much more for lower audio quality and end up spending time editing the transcript after all. 

How can you make sure the transcription service you choose is US-based? 

Look for a sticker or text that says “100% US-based” on the transcription service’s website. 

“Providing Real American Transcription Services Since 2010 from our Denver, Colorado offices.”

The company should also have a US address and telephone number, not a PO box and toll-free number. 

How much do real American transcription services cost? 

The average cost is anywhere from $1.50 to $5.00 per audio minute. 

Transcription Rates

Human transcription’s turnaround times (average 3-5 business days) aren’t as tempting as AI transcription. Since there’s more attention to detail, humans need more time to transcribe, edit, and polish the transcript before sending it back to you. 

Is the accuracy worth the wait? If not, you can always request rush rates and get your file back within 1-2 days or hours for an extra cost.


Academic Transcription Service Checklist

Are you ready to choose an academic transcription service? We’ve made this checklist to remind you of the important features a transcription service should have showing you how to choose the correct academic transcription services for your needs:

  • Have a 99% guaranteed accuracy rate. This is possibly the most critical aspect of all since you don’t want to spend your already limited time editing the transcript. 
  • Be 100% US-based. The transcription service should be based in the US and have all American transcriptionists. This helps maintain the accuracy rate and context of your transcripts. 
  • Offer flexible rates and turnaround time to compliment your budget and schedule.
  • Follow security measures such as encryption, have a firewall, antivirus software, etc., to keep your information safe. 
  • Transcribe various formats to suit your academic needs, whether you’re working on an excel spreadsheet, Word doc, Google sheet, or anything else along those lines. 
  • Be upfront and transparent with costs and fees so that you have no surprises. For example, if your audio file has speakers with accents, you won’t be charged extra per audio minute.
  • Do they have the proper insurance policy that covers them and yourself in the event of a data breach? 

There’s no need to write every point down. We’ve created a checklist you can download below to take with you when comparing academic transcription service providers.

Other than academic transcription, you can also obtain multimedia transcription services for your Podcasts and YouTube videos, allowing your listeners to experience all the engaging content within.


Downloadable Transcription Service Checklist PDF


Who Will You Choose for Your Academic Transcription Needs?

The academic transcription option you choose comes down to how important accuracy is to you. If you have time to edit the transcript and want to limit your spending, AI transcription is your best option. At Ditto Transcripts LLC, we know professors, students, and teachers are extremely busy. To stay on top of the organization (which can get out of control quickly), accurate and ready to use transcripts are essential. If you want to see the difference between AI and human transcription yourself, sign up for our free trial and get 100 audio minutes free today. 

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