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

Sample Transcript (pdf)

Technical guidelines for Tape Recorded Interviews

Ten Tips for Interviewers

Selected Bibliography and Web Resources

SOHP Home > How To > SOHP Guide > Ten Tips for Interviewers

Ten Tips for Interviewers

  1. Ask one question at a time.

  2. State your questions as directly as possible.

  3. Ask open-ended questions-questions that begin with "why, how, where, what kind of," etc. Avoid "yes or no" questions.

  4. Start with non-controversial questions. One good place to begin, for instance, is with the interviewee's childhood memories.

  5. Don't let periods of silence fluster you.

  6. Avoid interrupting the interviewee.

  7. If the interviewee strays away from the topic in which you are interested, don't panic. Sometimes the best parts of the interview come about this way. If you feel the digression has drifted too far afield, gently steer the interviewee back to the topic with your next question.

  8. Be respectful of the interviewee. Use body language to show you are interested in what he or she has to say. Remember, the interviewee is giving you the gift of his or her memories and experiences.

  9. After the interview, thank the interviewee for sharing his or her experiences. Also send a written thank-you note.

  10. Don't use the interview to show off your knowledge, charm, or other attributes. Remember, "good interviewers never shine-only their interviews do."

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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