Gadgets for Research: Tech Review

As those of you who’ve read my previous blog posts on the Echo Smart Pen will know, I have been testing out some gadgets that might assist researchers in collecting and analysing their data. Recently, I’ve been trying out Dragon Dictate 3 for the Mac, which is a voice recognition software that can be used to dictate into a range of applications including Microsoft Word. I must say I’ve been very impressed with the software. It does take a little bit of training initially in order to get it used to your voice. However once you’ve done that, it quite accurately types what you are saying. It also has the ability to learn from its mistakes which you can correct as you go along.


The software can be easily installed onto your Mac and comes bundled with a word processor similar to Notepad. This is very fortunate as, in my experience, the software has some difficulty when trying to dictate into Microsoft Word. I’ve found, in Microsoft Word, that the cursor seems to jump about the page for no particular reason. This can be very disruptive when you’re trying to dictate and can really interrupt the flow of your thinking. Luckily this does not seem to happen in the pre-bundled notepad software and therefore it is possible to dictate into there first and then copy it into Microsoft Word, although that is a bit of a hassle.


Although I’ve not tried this out myself, another interesting feature of the software is its ability to transcribe pre-recorded audio. So if you’re away from your computer or at a computer that doesn’t have the software installed, you can simply create an audio recording of what you want the computer to type up, plug that into DragonDictate and it will transcribe it for you. Initially I thought this would be very useful for transcribing my interviews. However you still need to train the software to recognise the voice on the recording. Therefore it actually wouldn’t be very useful in transcribing interviews but is mainly useful for transcribing your own pre-recorded audio. On the plus side, you get an app which can transform your mobile phone into a digital audio recorder in order to create audio files which can be transcribed later. Despite this, it would still be possible to use this software for transcribing by a method called ‘parroting’ whereby you speak into the voice recognition software whilst listening to your pre-recorded recorded interview. There is some interesting methodological literature on this.


Overall, therefore, I would definitely recommend this piece of voice recognition software, especially for people who are writing up the results from their data analysis, but also for people transcribing interviews. It does take a little while to get used to and to allow the software to get used to you and I think you have to be quite patient at the start. However after a while I feel that the savings in terms of time and effort make this an invaluable research tool. Of course the software only works when you have your computer and microphone with you and are in a relatively quiet environment. Therefore for conferences, train journeys and all those occasions when you don’t have access to a computer, you might still benefit from having something like the Eco Smart pen to hand.

Posted under Follow the Data

This post was written by Philip Dennis Bremner on November 13, 2012

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