-Schedule the interview with the interviewee. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss the project in detail, make clear your goals for the interview. This conversation gives you and the interviewee the chance to develop a rapport for the upcoming interview.
- Preliminary research: Develop questions you want to cover during the interview process. But don't depend on them solely like a script. Use them as a guide. Remember the paperwork that is required and recommended.
- Locate the equipment. Test the equipment to make sure you feel comfortable with it. Purchase high quality cassettes, not 120 minute because although these allow for the most uninterrupted time, they are of low quality and will often break. Try 60 or 90 minute cassettes. Test your microphone. Purchase extra batteries, bring an extension cord just in case. Videotape is fine, too, but keep in mind although it may allow you to capture more in the body language of the interviewee, this may make him/her feel more uncomfortable than a strictly audio device. You can't hide or de-emphasize a video recorder. Creating the optimal environment:
- Settle on a comfortable spot, usually the person's home is best, because not only is it a comfortable place for the interviewee; the environment may help he/she remember key events. It also allows the interviewee to let down any guard and in some ways forget the tape is rolling
- This will also give you a chance to test the surroundings. What area will be best for the interview? (ex. loud ice maker, loud clock, heater, traffic, etc. You want an area with as little background interruptions as possible.
-Before the interview begins, you can fill out the paperwork. The Release is required! The Biographical Form can open the door to begin the conversation of the Interview.
- The Interview :
FIRST, begin the interview with the DATE, the name of the interviewee and the names of all present, including the interviewer.
You can begin with general questions about the person's birthplace, things you already know based on your preliminary research. These perfunctory questions may help the person relax.
- Spelling issues: While you do specify the spelling of the interviewee's name in the beginning, you don't have to ask the spelling during the course of the interview. This may delay the momentum of the conversation. If there is a concept you are unfamiliar with, feel free to ask. Otherwise, jot down questionable spelling phonetically and wait until after the interview to ask for the correct spelling. Keep your correct spelling list for the abstract/transcript.
- Listen!!! Listening is of paramount importance in the interview process. Although you have questions (usually in open-ended format), don't feel obligated to stick to them as a script. Listen to the inflection in the person's voice. The person may emphasize certain matters; follow that. If the interviewee begins to trail off and stray too far, you can gently redirect him/her. Ex. "You were saying earlier about .... Tell me more about that."
- Jot down notes if you want. But be aware of your interviewee's response. Some people react positively when they see someone jotting down notes; it makes them feel that what they are saying is important. Others are offended. And too many notes may distract you from listening to what is being said.
- Keep your voice as minimal as possible (this will help in transcription later). Nods are fine, but interrupting with uh-huhs and hmmm aren't exactly necessary.
- Try not to interrupt. When you notice the tape is beginning to run out, this is the one time that you can interrupt your interviewee. Let him/her know you're about to flip the tape. Once on the next side, state "This is side two, tape 1 of the interview with ....... You were talking about...." and the interview will continue.
- Silence is okay! Don't fear silence. If there is a long period of silence, you don't necessarily have to fill it up with another question. Again, listen to your interviewee. He/she may be still mulling over something important, and you'd rather your interviewee break the silence than you.
- Watch out for fatigue. Interviews should last at the most around 1.5 to two hours. Your interviewee may begin to tire before that, and if you notice fatigue, you can stop the interview and (possibly) continue at a later time.
- Always, at the end of the interview, give the person a chance to add any new information. Example: "Is there anything you would like to talk about that we haven't covered?" "Is there anything you would like to add?"
- Continue with the good rapport. You can reiterate some of the things mentioned in the interview, stressing how valuable the information will contribute to the historic record. Let the person know your intentions again and that you will provide him/her with a copy of the tape and the log/transcript (any written documentation).
- Go over any questions you have on the spelling of particular names and locations. You'll keep these notes for the transcriber.
- Make sure the permission form is signed.
- Upon leaving, you can jot down your own notes about the interview, things you remember, what you thought about it.
- Listen over the interview as you are transcribing/logging (please refer the other transcriptions for formatting assistance). You may find more questions that arise. If so, you may contact the person again for a follow-up. Or you can use the phone to clarify information. In the transcript you would place the new information you obtained in brackets. Interviewee later clarified through phone interview]
- Once you have completed the transcript, you can provide your interviewee with a copy. Provide your contact information and give your interviewee ample time to look over the material. If there is any information he/she would like to omit, they have the opportunity to do so, although this procedure should mainly be about checking for accuracy rather than content. NOTE: A written transcript presents an opportunity for the narrator to check the transcript and make corrections or clarifications. Care must be taken, however, to control the narrator's desire to rewrite or delete sections he or she feels are embarrassing or ill stated. A unique aspect of oral history is its inherent casualness or spontaneity. The transcript should not end up sounding sterile or lifeless. (Ohio Historical Society http://www.ohiohistory.org/resource/oahsm/notebook/julaug1995.html)
- After obtaining the final approval of the transcript/recording, you are ready to submit it to Special Collections, .Ramsey Library, UNCA. Again, make sure you have the signed permission form, the checklist, biographical data, transcript, and original recording.
Congratulations you've completed an oral history, contributing to family, regional, and cultural history.
Example of Oral
History and TRANSCRIPT: Special Collections, Ramsey Library, UNCA
This comprehensive web site covers the step by step methodology for conducting an oral history interview from its inception to archiving. Includes valuable information on processing, advice on question sets, practically recording considerations, equipment, etc. The site was part of a collaborative project between various departments at New Mexico State University and Panther Achievement Center of Gadsden High School which documented the cultural heritage of southern Mexico. Immigration and Immigrant populations were major subjects of documentation for this project as well. Includes an comprehensive interviewer checklist: http://web.nmsu.edu/~publhist/ohcheck2.html
Library of Congress Oral History Guide and
Guidelines list from dohistory.org, an
organization dedicated to practical resources for conducting oral histories.
Examples of Oral History Interviews - Special Collections, Ramsey Library, UNCA
Richard Petty - http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/oralhistory/NASCAR/petty_richard.html
Reverend James Black - http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/oralhistory/SHRC/black_reverend_james.html
-Oral History Release Form http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/oralhistory/oral_history_template_guidelines/oral_history_alternate.html
Examples of TRANSCRIPTS from Oral History Interviews - Special Collections, Ramsey Library, UNCA
Reverend James Black
Ohio Historical Society Transcription
Questions? Please contact Sallie Klipp - firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828.251.6645