Asking questions

Asking questions

  • Keep your questions short and clear.
  • Don’t interrupt – idea is to get the interviewee talking
  • Try to ask open questions beginning with the words ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘when’, for example, rather than closed questions that can be answered simply ‘yes’ and ‘no’
  • Respond to your interviewee’s words nonverbally, for example with lots of nods and smiles rather than with verbal exclamations and responses, such as ‘really’, ‘yes’ or ‘go on’.
  • Relax, be sympathetic
  • Ask follow ups to clarify
  • If the interviewee wants to tell you something confidential and off the record, respect their wishes and don’t record it, or temporarily switch off the tape recorder if you are using one.

How to do oral history

  1. What is oral history
  2. The interview
  3. Asking questions
  4. Recording answers
  5. Forms - useful ways of recording details
  6. Writing up
  7. Useful sources of information
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