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RE 5140 Advanced Children's Literature: Oral History

Conducting an Oral History Interview

Oral history interviews collect information about personal experiences and reflections about places, events and feelings. When conducting an interview it is important to respect the individual being interviewed and to avoid stereotyping or misrepresenting that person's comments. It is also important to be sure that the person being interviewed understands how her/his comments will be used, and that she/he gives written permission for use by the interviewer.

The Oral History Association provides a Best Practices Guide for conducting oral history interviews. The guide may be accessed here:

We have excerpted some important points from the Guide here:

1-Interviewers should conduct background research on the person and topic in primary and secondary sources in order to construct sound interview questions.

2-Always secure the written permission of the interviewee before conducting your interview.

3-Conduct your interview in a quiet place to avoid distractions. Help focus the interview by beginning your session with an explanation of  its purpose. Note the date and time of the interview. Set a time limit for the interview.

4-Ask creative and probing questions, but respect the interviewee's wishes to decline to answer some of your questions. 

5-Encourage interviewees to answer questions in their own style and using their own words. 

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