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WST 220 Women and Gender Studies

Tips for Oral History Interviewing

                     Preparation is important. 

  • Find out  what you can about the person in advance.
  • Explain the purpose of the interview and how  it will be used.
  • Briefly discuss topics to be covered, but save stories for the interview.
  • Indicate how much time to allow for interview (typically 30 -60 minutes)
  • Allow for time before and following interview.
  • Prior to interview, confirm - date, time, location.
  • Think about what you want to ask.  Have 10 or 12 questions ready.
  • You may not use all your questions.  Some are for clarification.
  • Have a (written) introductory statement...
  •   date,names, purpose & ask interviewee if they agree to the interview.
  • Don't inteview the emotionally vulnerable (e.g., recent family death, real estate sale.)
  • Don't rush the interview; allow interviewee time to repond.
  • Interview one person at a time, in a quiet area.
  • Ask one question at a time and allow for pauses. Never interrupt.
  • Adapt your behavior--speak clearly, face the interviewee, nod encouragingly.
  • Sensitive topics can come up. Determine if interviewee is reluctant to discuss.
  • Express your appreciation for the interviewee's time and helpful information.
  • Later make a list of unclear items-- e.g, spellings; and check back with interviewee.

Finding & Capturing Oral History