Drawing from thirty years of experience as a practitioner and teacher of oral history, Judy Yung provided the nuts and bolts of conducting an oral history interview with a Chinese American. As she said, of utmost importance is preparation--having a sense of purpose and specific objectives for the interview, doing the necessary background research on the person and topic, preparing a list of questions beforehand, and making sure equipment to be used is in good working order.
It is best to interview people in their homes and alone, to show good manners by bringing a gift or some refreshment to the interview, and to ask permission to tape the interview. Some basic tips on conducting the interview include:
* Establish trust and rapport by being pleasant, attentive, and respectful.
* Ask open-ended and clear questions one at a time, be flexible with your line of questioning, and be on your toes to ask follow-up questions.
* Do not dominate the conversation; give the person time to respond.
* Jot down notes in regard to dates, names, places, and questions you want to pursue later.
* Plan on a two-hour interview, but end the interview whenever the person appears tired. Then arrange for a second interview if necessary.
* Use photos, artifacts, and hearsay to spark memories.
* Have the person sign a consent form at the end of the interview if you intend to publish or share the interview with the public.
Soon after the interview, listen to the tape with follow-up questions in mind, and transcribe the interview according to guidelines provided in oral-history manuals. Provide the interviewee with an opportunity to review and correct the transcript. Consider depositing the transcript...