How do I conduct an oral history interview?

Here is some general advice:

Learn as much as you can about your interviewee and the proposed topic of your research BEFORE you begin.

Prepare and read your introduction – something that should be standard on every tape

Get written informed consent

Get verbal assent on tape

Start with easy questions

When you change topics, explain why

Do not interrupt

Try to keep eye contact

Avoid cutting people off or asking irrelevant questions

Ask open questions – questions that demand an essay as an answer

Ask good follow up questions

Ask why

Ask for clarification


  • notepads or notebooks
  • pens/pencils
  • recorder of some type
  • batteries for recorder, plus back ups
  • extension cord, masking tape, if using electrical power
  • If possible, a backup recorder

Write and send a ‘thank you’ note!