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    « The Role of an Editor | Main | What if I Can't Remember? »

    An Interview, Using Oral History Techniques

    The situation: Say that you have decided to help a relative to record her memories. You’ve agreed upon a time to get together and you have a list of questions ready. Before you go, you might want to consider a few tips for interviewers like yourself, offered by the Regional Oral History Project at the University of California, Berkeley.

    • Interviews usually work better if there is no one present but you and your relative.
    • An interview is not a dialogue. The whole point is to get the your relative to tell her story. Limit your own remarks.
    • Ask one question at a time.
    • Ask brief questions.
    • Start with questions that are not controversial; save the delicate questions (if there are any) for later in the interview.
    • Don’t let periods of silence fluster you. Give your relative a chance to think of what she wants to add before you hustle her along to the next question.
    • Don’t interrupt a good story because you have thought of a question, or because your relative is straying from your outline.
    • End the interview at a reasonable time. An hour and a half is probably the maximum.

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