What is a Scopist?

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The scopist is, perhaps, the unspoken hero of the finalized, official transcript. Scopists, who often work as a team with court reporters and may even be hired by court reporters, are responsible for transforming undefined stenotype into English, ensuring that it is properly punctuated, researched and formatted.

When a court reporter completes the process of recording a spoken proceeding using a stenotype machine or a stenomask, the rough notes are handed over to a professional scopist who, through the use of specialized software, translates the transcript from stenotype to written English, ensuring that formatting, punctuation, and grammar are considered. In addition, it is often up to the scopist to ensure that all names and terms are spelled properly, which often requires a bit of research. Any questionable areas are flagged, and the transcript is given back to the court reporter, who then proofreads the transcript for final approval.

It should be noted that even digital court reporters use the expertise of scopists to proofread and correct errors in a rough transcript.

The Job Scope of the Scopist

A scopist’s job scope is to assist the court reporter in the transcription process. Not all court reporters use scopists, but those with heavy workloads find that their productivity greatly increases and they are able to turn around work much more quickly when they utilize a professional scopist.

Upon receiving the shorthand notes from the court reporter, the scopist translates them into English, thereby producing a final transcript. But the scopist’s job extends beyond the translation of the notes, as it is up to the scopist to ensure that everything translates well and makes sense. Therefore, this stenographic professional ensures that all technical words and names are spelled properly.

The process of turning around the rough shorthand notes into a clean transcript may take a considerable amount of time; time that the court reporter may use to complete other stenography jobs. Instead, the verbatim recording is handed over to the scopist, who takes the time to ensure that the translated transcript is completed quickly and returned as a finished product to the client.

It is common for scopists to work exclusively for one court reporter, as these professionals become accustomed to a court reporter’s unique strategy for taking shorthand notes. A dedicated scopist who can interpret the notes of the court reporter is invaluable for the busy court reporter.

Most scopists work as independent contractors (freelance scopists), and are therefore paid by page by the court reporter. Scopists who work exclusively for one court reporter may even be paid an annual salary by the court reporter.

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The Education of a Scopist

Scopists must receive an education as to best succeed in the profession. The most common path to becoming a scopist involves the completion of a program from a dedicated scoping school. There are a number of these programs throughout the country, many of which offer both hands-on and online training. The completion of a program in scoping generally results in a certification or professional diploma.

Further, it is not uncommon to find court reporting schools that offer abbreviated programs for scopists.

Coursework in a traditional scopist program often includes:

  • Law and legal terminology
  • Reporting communications
  • Machine shorthand
  • Reporting technology
  • Medical reporting
  • Realtime reporting

Some individuals find that working as a scopist instead of a court reporter affords them a more flexible schedule and the ability to work from home. Others with disabilities or lifestyles that may prohibit them from working as professional stenographers also find that working as a scopist has a number of benefits. Some court reporters choose to become scopists during maternity leave, as it allows them to continue to work, but from the comfort of their home. Others choose to pursue work as a scopist after retirement from a career as a court reporter.

Court reporters who also serve as scopists are in particularly high demand, as they have extensive experience and knowledge in shorthand and are capable of understanding the nuances of a court reporter’s job.

Individuals can expect to enjoy success as a scopist if they:

  • Have an excellent grasp of the English language
  • Are experts in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure
  • Are good researchers
  • Have a broad vocabulary
  • Are punctual and dependable
  • Are motivated self-starters
  • Capable of meeting deadlines
  • Take pride in producing meticulous transcripts
  • The ability to learn computer-aided transcription (CAT)

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