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Dichotomies of method and practice: a review of literature on transcription

Stephanie Anne Shelton (Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology, and Counseling, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA)
Maureen A. Flint (Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 22 September 2020

Issue publication date: 12 April 2021




Transcription is an integral component to qualitative research, and as such, the ways that researchers discuss transcription in the literature matter. Scholarly discussions on the “how” and “why” of transcription not only shape discourse within interview data-based fields; they inform the ways that researchers understand the roles and ramifications of transcribing. This study aims to provide a comprehensive literature review of articles on transcription published in qualitative methods journals over the past 25 years, offering implications for research practice and pedagogy.


The literature review asked: How do qualitative researchers discuss transcription/transcribing? The authors first reviewed how transcription was discussed in the literature in qualitative studies in the social sciences broadly. Based on the findings, the authors then conducted a comprehensive literature review in 14 qualitative methods journals.


The authors found that overall, authors discussed transcription either as a technical tool or as a complex, researcher-constructed process. Specifically, utilitarian discussions of transcription emphasized transcription accuracy and efficiency, while theoretical discussions of transcription emphasized a continuously analytic and researcher-constructed process.


This study offers a comprehensive overview of the past 25 years of articles published on transcription. The authors conclude with a discussion of articles that bridge the theoretical and utilitarian discussions, as well as considerations for using transcription as a pedagogical tool for teaching qualitative research methods.



We are grateful to Kelly W. Guyotte, Meghan E. Barnes, the editor, and anonymous reviewers for their feedback on earlier versions of this paper.


Shelton, S.A. and Flint, M.A. (2021), "Dichotomies of method and practice: a review of literature on transcription", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 177-188.



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