HIST 499: Transcription Workshop for Cantigny First Division Oral History Project III 2012-2013

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HIST 499 is designed to teach students how to conduct a community-based oral history project. Students will become informed about the history of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and of the social character of combat veterans of thes conflicts. They will learn how to conduct research on military history using published and archival primary and secondary sources and then apply their findings to the composition of a series of specialized interview questions. They will develop proficiency in interviewing Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans, recording it by means of a digital video camera, and preparing a written transcript of the interview. Finally, they will gain experience working as part of a team to produce a short DVD video about this immersive-learning course and its definitive oral history project.

The high definition video oral histories and transcripts will be made available online through Ball State University Libraries' Digital Media Repository.

Purpose of Wiki

This wiki provides information on how to transcribe oral histories for inclusion in the Ball State University Libraries' Digital Media Repository. It also provides a place for students in HIST 499 to collaborate on transcribing their interviews. It can be used to provide references to helpful resources, and keep a running list of names, geographic locations, and acronyms used in the interviews.

For information on how to edit a wiki page, visit the following websites:

Resources for Military Information and General Reference




Getting Started

Express Scribe

  1. Download Express Scribe Transcription Playback Software. Note: You do not need to install Express Dictate.
  2. Download the oral history interview and save the file to your Desktop.
  3. Load the audio recording you'd like to transcribe.
    • Click on the Load button.
    • Navigate to the oral history audio file. The oral history will have a .mp3 file extension.
  4. Decide whether to use foot pedal or hot keys.
  5. If you want to use hot keys, go to Options > System Wide Hot Keys in the menu.
    • I generally set Play to F3 and Stop to F4. This makes it easier to stop and start quickly.
  6. Adjust speed of playback.
    • In the lower right hand corner, you'll find a gray bar to adjust the speed. I like 85% speed. Slow enough to hear everything, but fast enough that there's minimal distortion.

Transcription Template and Layout

All transcripts follow the layout in the Ball State University Cantigny First Division Oral History Project III template. Download this template, begin transcription, and save the file.


Spacing and page layout:

  • Margins should be 1 inch on each side.
  • No spaces at the the top of the page.
  • Do not double space.
  • Two empty lines after the information block.
  • A blank line before and after a timecode. Timecodes should only be placed at the end of sentences or at the end of a speaker's uncompleted sentence.
Ex. And then we went--


John had married at that point.
  • Two spaces at the end of sentences.
  • Page numbers should be in the bottom right corner.

Transcription Style Guide

We are following the Baylor University Institute for Oral History Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style for guidance in transcribing our oral histories.

Pay special attention to the following sections:

  • Abbreviations
  • Crunch Words
  • Dashes
  • Dates
  • Numbers

Supplemental Transcription Information

For most situations the Baylor Style Guide will suffice as our authoritative guide; however, we have decided to make a few minor changes and additions to facilitate our project and to clarify some unaddressed finer points.

Please alert the rest of the project’s staff to any major changes.

Multiple Interviewees or Interviewers: If there are multiple interviewees, use the first initial and last name.

       Ex.  B. Mathis: 
            P. Watkins:

Abbreviating Titles: If written in conjunction with any part of the person's name (i.e. first name, initials, or surname) use an abbreviated title.

       Ex.  Dr. Jones spoke with the other doctor.        

However, when referencing a military title, or other title such as a religious one, we will write it out unless their full name is given.

       Ex.  Father Murphy prayed with Reverend Harbin.
       Ex.  Fr. Sean Matthew Anderson

Acronyms: Acronyms should be spelled out in brackets [] following the first use of the acronym in an interview. Unless, the interviewer or interviewee define it in the course of the interview.

       Ex. And he took me to an OCS [Officer Candidate School] graduation ceremony, and 
       he told me, he said, “I think you should do this, you should go to OCS.”

Incidental sounds: Use brackets to show incidental and background sounds. Also, use a lowercase letter within the brackets even if they are the first word on a line or in a sentence:

       Ex.  Barry:  [laughter] That was when the truck hit him!

Proper descriptive terms for Incidental sounds:

  • 1.) [laughs] when speaker laughs
  • 2.) [Jeffrey laughs] when person other than speaker laughs
  • 3.) [laughter] when more than one person laughs
  • 4.) [unintelligible] when you can’t understand
  • 5.) [inaudible] when you can’t understand due to recording problem
  • 6.) [telephone rings]
  • 7.) [knock at door]
  • 8.) [both taking at once] or [speaking at same time]

Money: Monetary amounts can be tricky. In general write out all monetary amounts unless they are fractional.

       Ex.  John stole $15.60 from Susan, which made her sad.

If the monetary amount isn’t fractional, and only contains one or two non-zero significant digits write it out. If it contains three or more non-zero significant digits use numbers. Here are a few examples.

       Ex.  John gave Susan one hundred and fifty dollars, which made her happy.
       Ex.  John gave Susan $151, which made her happier.
       Ex.  John gave Susan one thousand and thirty dollars, which made her ecstatic.
       Ex.  John gave Susan $1,703,000, which made her faint.

Pauses: When there is a pause in the recording always use the phrase "Pause in recording." Set pauses in recording in Bold and Italics. These should be separated by a line above and below, and left justified. Only the first word should be capitalized. If somehow you know that the tape or side has ended, for example, if the interviewer says, “The tape is about to end,” indicate so in bolded italics.

       Ex.  Taylor:  I’m going to stop the tape for a minute.
            Pause in recording

            Taylor:  We’re back.

Recording Transitions: When there is a break in the recording, such as the end of one recording session and the beginning of another, set this apart in Bold and Italics. Theses should be separated by a line above and below, and left justified. One first word should be capitalized.

       Ex.  Taylor: I'm going to stop recording for today.
            Session one ends; session two begins.
            Taylor: We're back on January 1, 2009 interviewing Mr. Smith...

Depending on how the interview ends, center justify the phrase “End of interview” in bolded italics on its own line. Only the first word should be capitalized.

Place and People Names: In order to make the remaining and future transcriptions less time-intensive, we have decided to add a simple rule concerning place and people names. Since all names are fact checked we need a simple way to be able to find them in the document.

On the first draft, simply type your best guess at the name and insert (“??”) after the name.

       Ex.  The undersecretary to the dean is Mr. Joehanson (??).
       Ex.  I heard Brackon Library (??) has a secret fifth floor.

This will allow the staff member in charge of finding the names to easily locate and replace them.

Quotations: When the speaker is quoting someone, or a group of people, set the quotation inside quotation marks.

       Ex.  He said, “He only gave her one hundred and fifty dollars?”
       Ex.  They replied, “It’s a pretty good book.”

If the speaker is paraphrasing someone, or a group, do not use quotation marks.

       Ex.  They told us what it was, that they had hanged these two boys.
       Ex.  She said she was going to come over.

Keep in mind that thoughts are still set apart using a comma and an uppercase first letter.

       Ex.  I thought, This seems like too many rules.
       Ex.  They must have thought, We can get away with this.

Timecodes: Timecodes should be placed every minute before the next sentence as close as possible to the actual minute. They should be in brackets and bold-type on their own line with a space above and below.

       Ex.  Taylor:     Well, I didn’t have any trouble ‘cause at that time the work was very 
                        But I was fortunate that I got a job right off the reel and I have never
                        been out of work since I’ve been in Muncie, but I didn’t have any problems         
                        at all.”

If the minute mark falls in the middle of a sentence place the timecode as close as possible to the correct location without breaking the sentence apart.

Place an ending timecode after the last spoken word and before the “End of interview” text.

             Ex.  Johnson:  Okay, thank you.

Um’s, Ah’s, and Other Crutch Words: In an effort to bring clarity to the transcripts you may leave out any occurrence of a crutch word or guggle unless it’s vital to understanding the speaker’s speech pattern. Each example has what the speaker originally said in quotes and what follows is an appropriate transcription.

       Ex.  “Um, the-a quick br-brown fox jumps over, um [three second pause], the lazy dog-a.”
       Transcription: The quick brown fox jumps over—um, the lazy dog.
       Note: the first um was deleted because it was simply used as a stalling device for the
       speaker.  The second ‘um’ is left in to indicate its use as a lengthy pause. 
       Ex.  “And um, I remember when, um, the church was um just a um convent.”
       Transcription: I remember when the church was just a convent.

Use your discretion on whether or not to include specific crutch words in the transcript. We are trying to create near verbatim scripts, but we also want to be sensitive to the difference between the spoken and written word. If you’re in doubt please ask someone else for their opinion.

Proofreading Transcripts

Ideally, all transcripts should be proofread by someone who did not conduct or transcribe the interview. It is also important to send copies of the transcripts to interviewees for review before final document is created for upload to the Digital Media Repository.

Procedures and Things to Double Check:

  • Listen to interview to make sure it is has been accurately transcribed and look for spelling and grammatical mistakes that are not part of the interview.
  • An effort should be made to minimize the number of "inaudibles" in the transcript. Editors should try to decipher any unclear words marked with a ~ or marked [inaudible], [unintelligible], or [?]. If the editor cannot make out the words, they should add [inaudible] if it is due to a technical problem or [unintelligible] if they cannot understand the person speaking.
  • Names of people and places should be checked and corrected if spelled incorrectly. All spellings of locations should be added to the this wiki for other transcribers and editors to reference. These interviews will be sent to the interviewees and they will also be asked to correct the spellings of names.
  • Acronyms should be spelled out in brackets within the body of the interview, if they are not defined within the course of the interview. All acronyms and military terms should be added to the list of military terms and acronyms on this wiki for transcribers and editors to reference.
  • Double check the the page numbers are in the bottom right hand corner of each page.
  • Double check that the header includes all of the necessary sections, including archival identification number, and the layout is correct.
  • Double check the time codes are properly formatted.
  • Double check that the total time of the interview is included on the last page.

Military Terms and Acronyms

As we transcribe these interviews, we will keep a running list of common military terms and acronyms in this space. Acronyms should be spelled out in brackets in the transcripts. We are still looking for definitions for the terms in italics.


Geographical Locations

As we transcribe these interviews, we will keep a running list of geographical locations mentioned in the interviews. The names in italics have not been verified.

  • Muncie, Indiana


As we transcribe these interviews, we will keep a running list of personal names mentioned in the interviews. The names in italics have not been verified.


Status 2012-2013

Names of interviews and status of their inclusion in the Digital Media Repository

Name Archival ID Number Video Uploaded Transcription Received Transcription Added Completed
SFC Timothy Barksdale V301-001
SPC Melvin Billups V301-002
SGT Dominic Brenner V301-003
SPC James Burnett V301-004
PFC David Bystrom V301-005
SPC Norman Craig Jr. V301-006
SGT Michael Demeo V301-007
SPC Benjamin Fitz V301-008
SPC Danny Garcia V301-009
SPC Dar Garrison V301-010
SPC Jennifer Gerber V301-011
LTC Steven Hibler V301-012
SSG Michael Hill V301-013
SPC, Vet. Kyle Johnson V301-014
SGT Kelly Malone-Harris V301-015
SFC Joshua Marcum V301-016
SPC Tucker Powers V301-017
SPC Rebecca Smith V301-018
Vet., U.S. Navy Alejandro "Hondo" Tamez V301-019
CPL Matthew Taylor V301-020

Related Links

Cantigny First Division Oral Histories Terms and Names List

Transcription Workshop PowerPoint Presentation