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This guide will assist students in Prof. Borgia's WGST 1100 course with their oral history paper.

Understanding Oppression and Privilege

When we talk to people, our life experiences, biases, and education all influence the ways in which we communicate. This includes the language we may speak, terms and word usage, as well as the very cadence and tone of our speech. When speaking to people about their specific life and history, we need to be aware that how we are situated in both mental and physical spaces have meaning.

These texts and websites will help you recognize the often invisible forces at work during an interview and will help you think of ways to approach subject matter without reinforcing oppressive idealogy, systems, and speech.

Pre-Interview Checklist

Before you begin, consider this checklist of both practical and more personal things to do:

As The Interviewer

  • Self-reflect. What are you trying to accomplish? How can you make this easy for your interviewee? 
  • Remember to be yourself. You are here to engage and listen. Interviews are conversational and work best when both parties are comfortable, both physical and mentally.
  • Research about your interviewee. Check name spelling and pronunciation. 
  • Verify your interview date, time, and location.
  • Make sure you give yourself enough time to have a conversation. No need to rush!
  • Arrive to location early. Choose a physical space that is accessible to the interviewee and provides good sound/video quality. A public coffee shop or large room will not give good audio options for transcription!

Recording Audio

Dave Taylor via Youtube

Conversation Tips and Guides

Examples of Question Building (via Oral History Society UK):

  • Ask one question at a time.
  • Ask open inviting in plain words.Consider documenting in chronological order. Examples:
    • Instead of “I suppose you must have had a poor and unhappy childhood?”, ask “Can you describe your childhood?"
    • Start with simple questions first: "Where were you born?" "Who were your parents?" etc.
  • Follow up Questions:
    • “How did you feel about that?”
    • “What sort of person was he/she?”
    • “Can you describe the house you lived in?”
    • “Why did you decide to change jobs?”
  • Connect past questions and give ways for the interviewee to tell you more (via UCLA Oral History Guide):
    • For example, use the following transitions: "We've talked about X, but now I'd like to move on to . . ." or "I'd like to follow up on something you said previously . . . ."