Oral History Project
Each student will turn in an oral history project for grade. The following steps should be followed to do the best on this assignment.
Choose someone to interview. Give some thought to this part of the assignment. Talk to people who participated in or observed the changes in society during WWII, the Great Depression, the Cold War (post WWII – late 1980s); who were in the armed forces during WWII, Korea or Vietnam. Other topics to discuss could include immigration, women’s roles in society during the post WWII period to present, the lives of migrant workers or related issues. Your role in this is to record this person’s impressions of, activities during and how they were affected by the central topic of discussion (one of the categories mentioned above).
Select an individual over the age of 50 to interview. The person must agree to be recorded (either on audio or video) and allow the interview to be shared with your classmates & future students. Discuss and decide with your perspective interviewee the focus of the interview (one of the categories mentioned above). This is very important to do a week or two before the interview to allow the interviewee to collect their thoughts, and any memorabilia or photos they may want to share with you.
Set a time and place for your interview. Make it a place where you can have some quiet time talking with the interviewee. It’s hard to transcribe an interview with a lot of background noise. It’s also best to go to the subject’s home. They’ll have any photos or other items that may be a key part of their story with them.
One way to get your interview started, as well as to better acquaint yourself with your subject is to ask basic questions that are easy to answer. Once you get these types of questions out of the way, it’s easier to dig into the heart of the interview.
Additionally, these questions are very useful when it comes to identifying people, jobs and places your subject mentions in the interview. Use them as your opening questions.
Prepare for the interview by researching the main topic (Great Depression, WWII, etc.). Do this by gathering an annotated bibliography with a minimum of five sources relating to the topic. Sources may be taken from the web, make sure to include the address. Make the sources as specific as possible, encyclopedia entries don’t make good sources.
Create a minimum of 20 additional questions relevant to the interview topic. Make them open-ended questions (ones that require more than a yes or no answer). Use follow-up questions when talking with your subject.
An example of a follow up question could be something like this:
Question: What was it like for your family during the depression?
Answer: It was really hard.
Follow up question: Can you give me some examples of how things were hard?
Focus on the interviewee’s experience in relation to the general information you have gathered.
Before beginning the interview, have your subject sign the Interview Agreement Release Form. Print out a copy of the form from this address:
Once the interview is complete, transcribe the interview, and put your transcription into a question/answer format in Microsoft Word.
Think about your interview, and then write a brief (2-3 pages) analysis of the interview, using the following questions to frame the analysis.
Print the interview, your analysis and annotated bibliography, and turn it in, along with the Interview Agreement Release Form on the due dates indicated on the class schedule.
Assignment developed by Prof. Tori Beckman-Wilson of Palo Alto College