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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

An Interview, Using Oral History Techniques

Nan Barnes

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.