Tuesday, September 18, 2007

transcription: a cautionary example

Consider this:

Q: Please explain cognitive therapy in 2 sentences

A: (Judith Beck) Cognitive therapy, as developed by my father Aaron Beck, is a comprehensive system of psychotherapy, based on the idea that the way people perceive their experience influences their emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses. Part of what we do is to help people solve the problems they are facing today. We also teach them cognitive and behavioral skills to modify their dysfunctional thinking and actions.

After counting sentences I realize that while Dr. Beck's failure to explain cognitive therapy in 2 sentences does not produce the very sort of dysfunctional thinking that cognitive therapy seeks to address, the fact that someone failed to either edit the response to 2 sentences or revise the question to ask for 3 sentences does create dysfunctional thinking. My addled brain screams for justice.

Either the individual being interviewed a) can't follow instructions, b) elected not to follow instructions, c) failed to edit the final transcription or d) wasn't given the chance to edit the final transcription and suffered from an editor who didn't care if she looked bad.

In any of the above cases the reader is at worst left with a Bad Impression of the individual being interviewed. At best, the reader senses sloppy editing.

When I go back and read some of the execrable spew I've had the misfortune to have spoken and the even greater misfortune to have had transcribed, I realized it might help to offer the following:

If you plan to transcribe and later publish what you're saying, for G-d's sake keep your sentences short, follow instructions, and if you're doing it internally, go over the transcript with a fine-toothed comb to pick out the sort of nits I discovered above. If a third party is doing the heavy lifting, only do the interview on the condition that you can review the transcript for "clear errors".

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