Oral History Project: Guidelines for Recording an Interview
Oral history interviews can bring history to life. It can be a very satisfying project for both those interviewed and the interviewers. Preparation before the interview will help make your project more fun for you, the interviewer, and the person you interview.
1. Set up a time and place to meet with your interview subject.
2. Know how to use your equipment. Practice recording a conversation with a friend or family member so that you are comfortable with the process. Speaking clearly and precisely helps. Make sure the volume/sound level is O.K.
3. Write up or use a list of questions to ask your interview subject. Use questions that require more than a yes/no answer. E.g. What was the neighbourhood like when you were growing up? Start with general questions and then look for specific information E.g. How did the war affect your life?
4. When it's time to interview the subject, make sure you are there promptly. Bring a blank tape/video. Bring extra batteries. And don't forget your list of questions.
5. Always treat the person you are interviewing politely and with respect. Speak clearly. Do a practice question to make sure the tape/video recorder is working.
6. Always start the tape/video by stating your name, your subject's name, the time, and the date into the recorder. Don't forget to label the tape/video on the outside as well.
7. Understand that your list of questions is a guide for you to follow. Sometimes the person being interviewed has a special story he or she would like to tell. Ask directly. E.g. Do you have a special story you would like to have recorded? Would you share it with me? Be prepared for the unexpected!
8. Keep your recording session to about 30-40 minutes. It can be very tiring for you and the other person you are interviewing.
9. Make sure you thank your subject when you are finished. Remember, you could not do the project without their cooperation.
10. Send a follow up letter or note to the individual you interviewed and thank them for the experience.
Adapted Source: Hometown History Activity Booklet