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Oral Histories

Tips for a Successful Oral History Interview

Interested in submitting an oral history to the Humboldt in the Time of COVID Project? Below are some tips for a successful oral history interview. More information about submitting material can be found on this Humboldt in the Time of COVID research guide or the digital repository for the project.  The Oral History Association also has a list of remote interviewing resources.

  • Have technology ready.  Practice using it beforehand.

  • Write down questions and think about the order you will ask the questions. 

    • It is helpful to start with the easy and fun questions and save the harder questions for later in the interview.

    • Be prepared to re-state or rephrase a question to get a more complete answer from the interviewee.

  • Research your topic and the person you are interviewing.  

  • Start the interview by stating the date, time, your name, and the name of the person(s) being interviewed so it is recorded at the beginning of your oral history.

  • During the interview take your time asking questions.  Try to allow the interviewee to pause and collect their thoughts. 

  • Try not to interrupt the interviewee as they answer questions. Be comfortable in silence and pauses.

  • Be yourself during the interview. Be personable.  It will help put the interviewee at ease.

  • Make sure to complete an interview release form at the beginning or end of your interview. You can use this form as a template. 

  • Follow HSU COVID safety guidelines. 

To get started, find an oral history and listen to it. Some examples can be found on the HSU Library Oral History Research Guide. What makes it a successful interview? What does not work?


Practical Advice for Oral Histories

Select Oral Histories

Humboldt County Oral Histories

Introductory Reading