What to Ask and How to Ask It.
What to Ask:
- Come with a list of prepared questions
- Consult oral history websites for sample questions or use some of these.
- Consider your subject--when have they lived? what special things have they experienced?
How to ask it:
- At the beginning of the tape identify yourself, the person you are interviewing, the date, and location.
- Ask brief open-ended questions.
- Ask only one question at a time.
- Don't be afraid of silence. Give the narrator time to gather his/her thoughts.
- Don't worry if you fumble a question. It will help the narrator feel more comfortable with their own mistakes.
- Never interrupt with a question. Instead write it down on a notepad for later.
- Try to keep the narrator on the topic.
- When asking for a description of a person start with appearance.
- Sometimes asking about the negative in a situation will allow the narrator to bring up other aspects.
- Try to establish where or who the narrator was in the story.
- Don't switch the tape recorder on and off during the interview.
- The best interviews happen when there are only two people present.
- The interview should only be 1 to 1 1/2 hours long.
- Jot down names of people and places on a note pad to check spelling later. Jot down questions you would like to ask later but be careful not to write to much. This can be distracting for the narrator.