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The History Keepers: Oral History

A guide to resources in the Yale Library system for students enrolled in the History Keepers program.


Tips for conducting oral history interviews

1. Ask informed questions. Conduct background research on the person, topic, and larger context.

2. What you expect to learn from your interviews? Summarize your research goals before you conduct interviews.

2. Send an introductory email to your interviewee, outlining the general focus and purpose of the interview.

3. Set up a non-recorded pre-interview. This will allow your interviewee to ask questions about your project and the process, including the release form.

4. Make sure to practice using your recording technology before the interview.

5. Come up with a set of questions for the interview, but be prepared to redirect your line of questioning. Give the interviewee space to think and remember past events. Use gentle prompts to guide the conversation.

Adapted from the Oral History Association's Principles and Best Practices.

For more information, check out Indiana University's How to Conduct and Organize Oral History Interviews, published by the Center for the Study of History and Memory.