Designing an Oral History Project

Notes on Interviewing

Tape Label (example)

Field Notes (example)

Tape Index (example) (pdf)

Transcriber's Guidelines

Budget, Equipment, Materials for an Oral History Project

Equipment Currently Used by the SOHP

Transcript (example) (pdf)

Technical guidelines for Tape Recorded Interviews

Ten Tips for Interviewers

Selected Bibliography and Web Resources

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Designing an Oral History Project

Questions to consider before you begin an oral history project:
  1. What is the historical subject you want to investigate?

  2. What are your goals in undertaking this project?

  3. What uses do you envision for the information you collect?

  4. What kinds of materials will the project generate? What should you do with them?

With these broad questions answered, you can more easily tackle the nuts and bolts:
  1. Who can provide you with information on this subject? How many interviews should you conduct? With how many different people?

  2. What personnel do you need to do this?

  3. What equipment and materials do you require?

  4. How long will the project run?

  5. What kind and amount of background research should you conduct?

  6. What funds will you need? Where might you obtain these funds?

As an exercise in planning a project, consider how the answers to these questions would vary in each of the following cases:
  1. A project in which high school students interview Vietnam veterans in their community in an effort to understand the impact of the war on individuals. (An example of oral history used in teaching.)

  2. A set of in-depth interviews with former President Jimmy Carter on his administration's foreign policy regarding the Middle East to be added to the collections of materials on his presidency at the Carter Library. (An example of oral history used to create new historical materials for the future use of researchers, scholars, and policy analysts.)

  3. A set of interviews with former minor league baseball players on the history of their sport and its relation to major league baseball. The interviews are to be used as the basis for a radio broadcast series on the changes in minor league baseball. (An example of oral history used in public history, i.e., interpreting history to the public.)

The Southern Oral History Program
(a component of the UNC Center for the Study of the American South)
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Chapel Hill, NC 27599-9127
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