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Indiana University

Oral History Techniques

Oral history interviewing is one more tool in the larger repertoire of anyone interested in history, anthropology, and folklore. It collects information about the past from observers and participants in that past. It gathers data not available in written records about events, people, decisions, and processes. Oral history interviews are grounded in memory, and memory is a subjective instrument for recording the past, always shaped by the present moment and the individual psyche. Oral history can reveal how individual values and actions shaped the past, and how the past shapes present-day values and actions.

Every interviewing experience is unique; this is part of the charm of fieldwork. So while there is some validity in the adage, "The only way to learn how to do it is to do it," there are things you can do before, during, and after your interview to make every interview more successful. This page links to a PDF version of the "Oral History Interviewing Techniques," which you are welcome to save and print. Please contact the Center if you have additional questions.

techniques pdf link

Center for the Study of History and Memory
Indiana University
Weatherly Hall North, Room 122
400 North Sunrise Drive
Bloomington, IN 47405
Telephone: (812) 855-2856