Projects series: how to transform a transcript into a cohesive and coherent report

health and medical writing projects

Medical and health writing are specialised fields that encompass a wide range of document and project types, each with their own unique purposes, audiences, and guidelines. In this new blog series, I’ll explore several different types of project I work on as a health and medical writer, giving examples and top tips to support your growth along the way.

Whether you are an aspiring or established medical or health writer, a healthcare professional, or simply curious about the intricacies of this writing niche, this new blog series is designed to provide you with valuable insights into this super-diverse field.

From transcript to cohesive report

One of my best returning clients is a membership body specialising in innovation in regulatory science. I regularly work for them to create meeting reports, often about very complex topics, based on spoken-word transcripts. These transcripts can be very long (think, 50/60,000 words plus).

Turning a transcript into a polished report can be a challenging yet rewarding task, requiring some specific skills. Whether you’re summarising a meeting, documenting an interview, or something else, transforming spoken dialogue into clear, concise, and coherent written content is often necessary as a writer.

Here are ten essential tips to help you through the process.

First, understand the purpose of the task

Before you jump into the editing process, first clarify the goal of the task. Knowing the purpose of what you are doing (it could be summarising an interview for a feature article, highlighting key points for a client strategy, or preparing a meeting report – as in this case) will guide your focus, helping you decide what to include and what to leave out during the transcript editing process.

Identify key themes and structure accordingly

Start by listening to a recording or reading the transcript (in manageable chunks, if it is very long) to identify the main themes or topics discussed. Highlight or note these key points to ensure they are featured in the resulting report or summary. This will help you create a coherent structure that reflects the core of the conversation.

Eliminate redundancies

Spoken language often includes repetitions, filler words (e.g., “um,” “you know”), and irrelevant asides. Remove these redundancies straight away to streamline the content, ensuring the report remains focused and professional.

Summarise long sections

Transcripts can include lengthy discussions that are not always necessary for the report. You may want to provide summaries for these sections, highlighting the main points and conclusions, or remove them altogether.

Paraphrase for clarity

Spoken dialogue can be convoluted. When editing, aim to convert long-winded spoken sentences into more concise written sentences. I usually do three editing “passes”: first a light touch, then a second edit to simplify and ensure the overall structure makes sense, and finally a ‘proofread’ (see top tip ten). Paraphrasing to enhance clarity makes the text more direct and easier to understand.

Maintain the speaker’s intent

While it is important to paraphrase for clarity, it’s equally crucial to preserve the speaker’s intent and tone. Try to avoid altering the meaning or context of statements. This ensures the resulting report accurately reflects the original conversation and maintains its integrity.

Organise logically

A well-organised report will enhance comprehension, making it easier for the reader to follow the flow of information. Arrange the content in a logical structure with clear headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up text. As spoken dialogue often veers off in many directions (“jellyfish” moments), it is not always immediately obvious what the best structure for the final report will be; this being said, I like to create a ‘template’ for the final report from the very start based on over-arching topics discussed, dropping in edited sections and moving things around as I go.

Use quotations (sparingly)

Direct quotes can add value and authenticity, but do use them sparingly. Include direct quotes when they are particularly impactful or provide significant insight. For the most part, paraphrasing will help keep the report focused and concise.

Check for consistency

Consistency in terminology, abbreviations, and style is essential. Ensure these elements are uniform throughout the document. This helps maintain a polished appearance and avoids confusion for the reader. I usually make these checks once the full text edit is complete.

Proofread and final edits

Finally, thoroughly proofread the report for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Additionally, you could do one more edit for clarity and conciseness, ensuring the final document is polished and professional. A well-edited report not only looks professional but also ensures that the content is easy to read and understand.

By following these ten tips, you can effectively transform a raw transcript into a well-organised and insightful report. This process not only enhances the clarity and professionalism of your document but also ensures that the essential information is communicated effectively to your audience. Happy editing!

Thank you so much for reading. I look forward to sharing more of my project experience with you in the weeks to come.

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