About WH Transcription Service

WH Transcription Service has been providing transcription of focus groups and interviews for qualitative marketing researchers, moderators, and writers since 1995 and is committed to helping you give the best service that you can to your clients by providing concise, accurate, and timely transcriptions.

* Specializing in Transcription for streamlined analysis of data
* Focus groups, interviews, oral histories
* Formatted for visual accessibility and efficiency
* Email transmission of data
* 24-Hour turnaround per 2-hour audio tape
* Concise, accurate, and confidential
* Reasonable rates

WH Transcription Service specializes in Transcription Notes - A style of transcription that I have developed over the years in collaboration with focus group moderators and writers. The transcription is close to full verbatim, however, extraneous, non-relevant comments are edited out for more streamlined analysis.

At the same time, I strive to convey the subtle nuances of emotions expressed by the product or service user, and make evident the texture and the mood of the session. The Transcription Notes are organized by formatting. They are broken into "chapters" marking where the moderator changes topics or activities for ease of reference. The goal is to aid the report writer in their evaluation to the fullest, and in an efficient manner.


WH Transcription Service specializes in focus group discussions and interviews. The topics cover brand positioning, consumer products and services, health care and social services, high technology, etc., for many leading companies which include:

Air Touch Cellular Comm.
American Century
Blue Pumpkin
Blue Shield
Bonfante Gardens
California Agriculture
California State Fair
Cisco Systems
Columbia Forest Products
Crescendo Ventures
Cup of Soup
Del Monte
Diamond Walnuts
Digital Tech
Fannie Mae
Foster Farms
Fresh Step
Gaylord Entertainment
General Motors
Global Roaming Internet Conn.
Golden Grain Near East
Good Tech
Harrah's Casino
Hertz Rental
Hewlett Packard
Hidden Valley
HighDeal (technology)
IFT Food Technology
Johnson & Johnson
Junior Achievement
Lake Tahoe Visitor's Authority
N.H. DeBeers
National Association of Realtors
National Public Radio
Near East Soup
Nestles Quick
New York Life Insurance
Ochsner Clinic Foundation
Peter Pan Peanut Butter
PICS Retail Network
Prenatal to 3
SAFECO Insurance
San Jose Convention & Visitor's Bureau
Taco Bell
Traffic Safety Center, UC Berkeley
United Way
U.S. Postal Service

The sessions range from 2-hour groups of up to 12 individuals to one-on-one in-depth interviews, that were held in focus group facilities, in the home, or as telephone interviews.


I have worked for the Regional Oral History Library at the University of California, Berkeley, where I transcribed oral histories, and at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, since 1993 as a projects documentor. I created their computer user's and training manuals, and was lexicon writer. Prior to that I was with the Oakland Tribune Newspaper Company for almost 20 years in advertising handling sales accounts, as a proofreader, statistician, trainer, and in pre-press management capacities.

I have been providing focus group Transcription Notes services since 1995 for marketing researchers, moderators, and writers.

I look forward to being of service to you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I welcome your comments and opinions and look forward to hearing from you.

Willitte Herman

For more information, schedule of fees, sample transcription, and references please call or e-mail:

WH Transcription Service
(541) 512-8974
e-mail: WHTranscript@aol.com


About Transcription Notes


* When the moderator goes around the room and has everyone introduce themselves, they may also ask for a keyword or single phrase regarding some aspect about the topic of discussion, for example, cooking.

My notes begin with a laundry list of those keywords and phrases. The individuals' names and introductions may be eliminated; the writers saying they already have that information from the screeners.

* Comments that are not in keeping with a moderator's directives are often edited out. For example, the moderator asks that the respondents each give reactions based only on their own personal experiences. When someone begins to say, "If I were a (blank), then maybe I might think that..." If it is established that the person is not, nor ever had experiences as a (blank), and the comment is therefore not a personal truth, the comment may be struck. Although, sometimes a 'wrong' answer can reveal valuable insights and information.

* Responses to questions that were totally misunderstood may also be struck up to the point where the moderator corrects the misunderstanding, the viable response is then recorded.

* Most of the "um's" and "er's" are deleted. Those that are left in are to help indicate any slow, tentative, or hesitant responses.

* Affirmative responses of "Um h'm," and negative responses "Um um," are changed to "Yeah" (differentiated from a verbatim "Yes," which is a much stronger response) and "No," respectively, to eliminate confusion between the two.

* If a word or phrase is incoherent, it will be enclosed in brackets [...].

* If a sentence or whole statement is incoherent, it will be indicated with two brackets [...] [...].

* If the spelling of proper names is uncertain, the closest spelling will be attempted and enclosed in brackets [Name] the first time it appears. Subsequent occurances of the name will not have brackets to maintain flow of text.


The Transcription Notes are separated into "chapters" indicated by a group of asterisks [***]. These breaks show when a moderator takes a different tack with the group, such as beginning a mind-mapping activity, viewing a video, conducting a taste test, or when there is a change in the category of discussion. This assists the analyser by bookmarking the different areas of discussion.

I do not alter the chronological order of information from the way it was originally presented as this will change the transitional flow of conversation and may destroy any of the dynamics carried with it that a writer will need to see. An exception may be if a participant arrives late, for example, I may go ahead and insert their keyword phrase up in the laundry list.

The moderator's questions are set on lines by themselves, in bold type. The participants' responses are in plain type beneath.

If the moderator goes around the room asking the same question of each person, each individual's response starts on a new line separated by a line of space from the next individual's response, especially when they are extended 'stories.'

Most commonly, if the moderator poses a question where the responses are free-for-all interjections, the responses may be transcribed together in paragraph form beneath the moderator's question.

To show when an individual stops speaking and another begins, there will be a series of three slashes [///].

Sometimes the moderator may not pose a complete question, but merely wants to prompt a participant to elaborate or clarify. Such prompts I may embed within a participant's response enclosed by parenthesis. Example:

"Are there any other products that have that same feeling for you? Best Mayonnaise. /// Miracle Whip. /// (I mean different stuff?) Bull's Eye BBQ. /// Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. /// Haagen-Dazs. /// Food? /// (Could be anything!) Tide laundry soap. /// Raley's. /// Bel Aire. /// Mercedes. /// It's high quality, it's the Cadillac of the brands. (Does Cadillac have that same feeling for you even today?) Mm, no [laughs]. ///"

The above formatting, as opposed to traditionally having each individual's dialogue beginning on a separate line, makes for more compact viewing and scanning, and ease of extracting information. All the information is there, but the document appears more streamlined.

Recording Tips - Get the Most Out of Your Recorded Session

*Verbally describe the visuals:

Most transcribers use transcribing machines that take audio cassette tapes only, not video. These machines utilize headphones and a foot pedal to operate the Rewind and Play functions, which save on time and wear and tear on the hands from having to punch buttons, and thus allow the transcriber to keep their hands on the keyboard, and on the job.

Because your transcription is from an audio tape, if there are visual actions that are essential to the comprehension or analysis of a transcription (displaying of images or objects, physical movements and gestures), obviously, an audio tape, and sometimes even a video, will not capture those visuals. Be sure to describe those actions for the tape.

For example, a moderator may ask for a show of hands regarding a question and count silently. It will not be known to the listener how many hands went up or if none were raised. Or they may ask, "Do you like this color or that color?" And the respondent will say, "That one." Again, the listener will not know what is being referred to; we are blind. Verbalize and clarify, "Do you like the red or the blue color? Okay, you all point to the blue." Or, "I see two of you are shaking your heads."

Be sure to bring to the respondents' attention at the beginning of the session, and as a reminder throughout, that their responses cannot be 'seen' by the tape recorder, so they should verbalize all their responses. And as a moderator, also verbalize your respondents' physical reactions, such as: "You're all very quiet," "You're frowning," You're rolling your eyes," etc.

Good Recording Quality Means More Accurate Documents

The better the quality of the audio, the better the accuracy of the transcription document, and the faster a transcriber will be able to work because they will not be struggling to understand what is being said or won't be having the need to go back over and over the recording trying to capture information accurately. And that will improve turnaround time for your document.

*Microphone placement:

One of the most important factors that affect sound quality are mic placement in proximity to the speakers.

If set too far away from respondents and the respondents will be difficult to hear on tape. If this cannot be helped, ask the persons seated farthest from the mic to speak up. Be aware that even though you may be able to hear them perfectly clearly when you are in the room, the microphone may not be picking them up, especially if they are soft-spoken, as well. (More on this under Recording Equipment.)

If set too close to a speaker, and the sound levels can be too "hot" and will distort the sound.

If placed near machinery or an air conditioning vent; in a restaurant setting with the clatter of dishes and glasses or the sound of a cappuccino machine; in a room where other conversations are going on; or by an open window with traffic noise; these all interfere and compete with your recording. If the mic is on a table, shuffling papers, tapping pens, or hand thumps can sound like little explosions to the listener. A tabletop acts like a drum and can actually amplify noise.

All the above are the bane of transcribers and can add hours to transcription time and, therefore, cost to you, and degrade the quality and accuracy of your transcription document.

Sound levels can be adjusted on a transcriber's machine up to a point. But if the sound level for the nearest speaker is very loud, and the sound level for the farthest is weak, when the transcriber tries to increase the levels, or volume, to capture the weakest speaker, the transcriber runs the risk of damaging their eardrums.

Place the mic as equidistantly between all participants, as possible, including the moderator.

Recording Equipment

Good recordings result in accurate transcripts, so it is essential to make your recordings as clear and as noise-free as possible.

*Tape recorder:

Start by using a good quality, full-sized cassette recorder such as a Marantz PMD, Sony PressMan, Sony Walkman Pro or similar high-end consumer or professional level recorder. The money you save by reducing your transcription costs with clear, easy-to-hear tapes will soon pay for a good machine.


Use an external microphone for better recordings, whether audio or video taping.

The built-in microphone in most portable recorders is literally a 10-cent item with limited volume levels and telephone-quality sound. Internal mics also tend to pick up sound from the nearest source of noise - the recording machine itself.

You can increase the quality of your recordings by buying a good external microphone from Radio Shack, Circuit City, and so forth. Check to make sure the microphone you buy is compatible with your recorder. Choosing the wrong microphone could lead to low volume or distorted sound.

Place the microphone as close to the sound source as possible. Use a lavaliere microphone if only one person will be speaking.

All too often, the sound of the interviewer is perfectly clear, but the person being interviewed cannot be heard because the microphone is much closer to one than the other, or vice versa. The microphone should be placed as close as possible, and equidistant, to interviewer and all interviewees.

Sound volume is ruled by what's known as an inverse square ratio. As distance is increased, sound volume is decreased by the square of the distance. An easy way to think of it is for each foot of distance a microphone is away from a sound source, the recorded volume level is decreased by half and the amount of background noise doubles.

Because sound volume degrades so quickly over relatively short distances, especially with inexpensive equipment, for good recordings and accurate transcripts, microphones and recorders must be placed as close to a subject as possible and the recording should be done in a quiet setting (e.g., do not record next to an open window where a lot of traffic noise can be heard, in a noisy restaurant, or where the microphone is near an air conditioning vent.).

Don't be afraid to ask your subject to speak up. Most people do not know when they are speaking too softly or when their voices drop at the end of a sentence. An alternative is to sit back a little from the subject. Most people will speak louder when someone is sitting further away. Sometimes an interviewer will try to place the microphone closer to themselves and, thus, at a 'discreet' distance away from the interviewee so that the person is not made uncomfortable at the sight of a microphone. This can be detrimental to the quality and sound balance of your recording. Offset the visual intimidation by grouping the microphone with several other objects on the table such as a potted plant or vase, etc., to 'hide' the mic instead.

Note: Some mics have an on/off switch. Make sure the switch is on before recording.

*Tape cassettes: Always use full-sized cassettes instead of micro cassettes. Full-sized cassettes always provide three times better sound quality and lower tape hiss than micro or mini-cassettes (15kHz versus 5kHz).

Use brand name tapes when recording.

Problems with excessively noisy tapes or hiss, distorted sound, or tapes breaking or tangling, the majority are caused by non-brand name tapes. Use Fuji, Maxell, Sony, TDK and other well-known, brand name tape. You will actually save yourself money in the long run.

Clearly label your tapes immediately after recording to avoid confusion, especially when recording multiple sessions.

To avoid accidentally recording over your taped session, break out both plastic tabs on the cassette, itself.

Always have extra tapes in case your recording session runs longer than expected, or if a tape is damaged.

*Extension cord, power cord, and batteries:

Be sure you have the a/c power cord for your tape recorder. Also have an extension cord available to allow for optimal placement of your recording equipment in case the power outlet is not conveniently located.

If you have a portable machine, and a power source is not available, be sure to have not only fresh batteries to run your machine, but backup batteries, as well.

*Recording speed:

Record at the fastest speed setting on your recorder.

Most micro recorders and some full-size recorders allow you to record at slower speeds to save tape and extend recording time. You will be doubling the amount of noise on the recording and halving the audio quality. Tapes are cheap, and by using the faster speeds and more tapes you could be saving yourself time and money in the long run.


Find a quiet place to hold your interview or discussion.

It is very difficult to transcribe tapes recorded in a noisy environment, such as in restaurants, bars, exhibit halls, airports, moving vehicles and so forth.

Minimize background noise by choosing a quiet setting, closing any doors and windows, and shutting off any noise-making devices. If the microphone is placed on a table, be mindful of tearing or shuffling papers close by, tapping with pens or drumming on the tabletop, pouring of iced water into a glass, etc. These types of noises can override any dialogue going on at the time.

Request that one person speaks at a time. Two or more persons speaking simultaneously can result in a garbled din where no one is understood, and thus, information is lost. Should that occur, ask them to repeat what they said one at a time. If you did not hear what a person said, chances are, the transcriber will not pick it up, either. Repeat the comment for the tape. Otherwise it will increase transcription time as the transcriber attempts to unravel the jumbled conversation.

*Voice activation features - Deactivate!!

Some recorders come with a voice activation feature that will stop recording when the sound level goes below a certain threshold to save tape.

When activated, the circuit will often shut off in the middle of a sentence if there is a pause, for instance, and miss the beginnings of sentences after such pauses. One cannot transcribe what is not recorded. Nor can one always make sense of fragmented words or stilted sentences. Much of how a person understands what is being said is based upon speech patterns and tempo. This is destroyed by the voice activation feature.

Turn this feature OFF.

*Sound level equalizer - Deactivate!!

Some recorders have a feature that keeps sound levels 'balanced.' If sound levels go over a certain decibel, the recorder will automatically cut back the signal. If someone coughs, laughs sharply, or a door slams, etc., the sound level will suddenly drop to compensate. But the level usually drops after the cough has occurred. So part of the cough is still there, but if someone is speaking during this time, that information will be lost and speech will be fragmented.

Turn this feature OFF.

*Do a sound test

Finally, before your session begins, run a sound test to make sure your equipment is operating properly, and that the sound levels are optimum.

Good recording equipment will have an input level adjustment. Start by setting the input in the medium range, then run a sound test and adjust it to make sure it picks up the voice of the farthest person without distorting the voice of the nearest person.

Set your Tone levels, treble and bass, in the middle setting. Too much bass, and voices will sound boomy or muddy.

Have a Sound Technician Help You

If you are recording at a facility or conference center that has a sound system, ask if the facility can connect your recorder to the in-house sound system for a direct feed, or provide them with blank tapes which they can drop in to their system. Sound technicians are often available to help you do this.

Tapes of lecturers, etc., recorded from the audience in a large room or hall, even though the speech might have been clear to the person sitting in the audience at the time, often sound as if they were recorded in an echo chamber and the speech is often muffled, boomy, muddy, distant, and/or otherwise just very difficult to understand.

If it is not possible to get a direct sound feed, an alternative is to place your microphone or recorder as close as possible to the podium or to a sound system speaker. Reporters will often place their recorders right on the podium for the best sound.

In a live situation, our ears filter out a lot of extraneous noise around us, where microphones tend to pick up sounds that are closest and loudest to them. While you may be able to hear a speaker clearly from the middle of an audience, a recorder will be hearing the movements of the people closest to it, the scraping of chairs, shuffling of paper, the echo from the back of the room, even your own breathing, and so on. All of which will override or interfere with what you really want recorded.

Overseas Video Compatibility There are 3 main video recording standards in use around the world and each one is incompatible with the other. *The video system used in America and Canada is called "NTSC." *Western Europe and Australia use "PAL." *Eastern Europe and France use "SECAM."

For example, a recording made in France could not be played on an American VCR. The picture will be distorted, you will see a lot of snow, and the speed of play and sound will be incorrect.

To view video tapes that are made from outside of the United States, or to send videos abroad, you must first convert the tape to or from the foreign television standard.

Inquire at your professional video duplication shop and ask if they do foreign conversion.


1. Call or e-mail to reserve a date for your project preferably 2-3 weeks in advance, if possible, to confirm scheduling availability.

2. Please include: * The type and duration of the discussions (one hour interview, 2 hour focus group, etc.).
* The dates on which the tapes are expected to arrive.
* The number of tapes being sent.
* The topic of discussion.

3. Using your preferred shipping carrier (Federal Express, UPS, etc.), send a copy of the audio tapes (standard or mini audio cassettes) along with a discussion guide if available, which can be helpful, but not necessary.

**NOTE: Be sure to send me COPIES and maintain your originals for backup in case of lost or damaged tapes by the carrier.

4. As I complete each session, I transmit the transcription back to you, and/or a designated receiver, as an e-mail attachment. Thus, the transcriptions are 'fed' to you as I go along until all the transcriptions are completed in the project.

I give a 24-hr turnaround per one and a half-hour of recorded tape for Transcription Notes.

With first-time clients I will send test attachments ahead of time to ensure the transmissions go through properly.

I work from a MAC platform using Microsoft Word. For PC users I convert the file to Word for Windows, so all formatting, page numbering, and header integrity is maintained.

5. When the project is completed, you are invoiced and the tapes are returned by the carrier you designate.

If using Federal Express or UPS, etc., be sure to provide your account number. Shipping charges are paid for by the customer.

If you do not need the tapes returned, I will hold onto them for at least 2 months, then erase the tapes before discarding.

I maintain electronic copies of all transcriptions for at least six months should you wish to have a transcription resent to you. There is no additional cost for this.

All information remains confidential.


For more information, schedule of fees, sample transcription, and references please call or e-mail :
290 Joy Drive
Talent, OR 97540

(541) 512-8974
e-mail: WHTranscript@aol.com

My Favorite Business Links
See other business pages

Michael "Hawkeye" Herman Blues Musician