Getting ready for interview

Mum, myself and Aunty Marg

Just spent a great hour or so listening to a series of video recordings about how to organize, structure and run an interview. Here are my notes.

Preparing for interview

  • Make them comfortable – their favourite place – kitchen table etc
  • Try to have microphone etc as not noticeable
  • Time of day that works for them – mind is agile rather than after meal or relaxing time

Structuring interview

  • Start interview with a questionnaire by Paul Thompson*
  • Begin with their childhood then progress to parents and grandparents – reminisces lead to more things they remembered
  • Listen to what is being said as more clues will be given to allow further research using other resources

Interviewing techniques

  • Be attentive, listen carefully to ask more questions for clarification
  • Not too long
  • Importance of listening to interview – identify new questions for next interview
  • Bring copies of newspaper etc to next interview re event discussed
  • Use photographs for more info

Life as a narrative

  • As we get older our life becomes a story
  • Allow people to tell own story in own time
  • Ask questions at later interviews – get these from early interviews
  • These questions important to you not necessarily the person you are interviewing
  • Patient, respectful and alert when asking about traumatic incidents

Oral history as part of family history research

  • This began mainly in the 1970s
  • This may not be history – people’s memories might include imagination as well
  • Documents vs oral history
  • Everything is an interpretation of the past
  • Use photographs to jog memory then find newspapers, documents etc for further comparison
  • Oral history important part of some cultures like Torres Strait Islanders and aborigines

*Paul Thompson, The Voice of the Past: Oral History, Oxford University Press, 2000.

Reflection: I hadn’t really thought about all the points mentioned in these recordings. I generally just go in like a bull at a gate asking questions and not developing a structure for the interview. But really mine are often related to a photo my aunt or mother has shown me and so is not an organized interview at all, just a chit chat about a photo.

Question: What is going to be the hardest part of the interview process?

3 thoughts on “Getting ready for interview

  1. Hmm… the hardest part of the interview process I reckon is what Paul says…really listening to the answers and juggling around your planned questions and making sure you cover everything you wanted to cover without wearing them and you out!

  2. I’ve had a look at your blog from a link in our family history course…looks interesting. I will post a link to it on our local family history groups Facebook page.

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