How to Conduct an Interview


Below is a guide with all the information you will need to conduct your own oral history interviews.


  1. If you do not have access to a separate audio recorder or microphone, your smartphone will work just fine.

  2. Find a place where the interviewee feels comfortable but that is also relatively quiet. Try to avoid recording interviews in public outside places, on public transportation, on busy streets or in places where there is a lot of commotion, people talking, or people playing music/watching TV.

  3. Have the interviewer and the interviewee sit across from each other or facing each other if possible.

  4. Place your phone in a place and at a height where both you and the interviewee can be heard clearly. Try to have it as close to the speakers mouths as possible without breathing directly into the microphone.

  5. Have the microphone (bottom of the phone) facing towards both speakers. Try to avoid holding the phone in your hand, as it will make sounds if you move around unless you are very still.



The following information should be made available to you in a language that you can read or speak fluently, or with the assistance of a trusted translator

  1. The project background: The interviewer should talk with you about their motivations for conducting your oral history interview, as well as what they hope you might be able to contribute to the project.

  2. Contact information: You should receive contact information for your interviewer; someone responsible for the archive, website, or other repository where your oral history materials will be housed and/or made available.

  3. The process for participation: The interviewer will explain to you the full process, from how long it will take to how it will be recorded.

  4. The potential benefits & risks of participation: As the interviewee, feel free to discuss the concerns you have related to your participation.


  1. You are not required to discuss any topics that make you uncomfortable or cause you distress. The interviewer should not pressure you to change your mind, although they may ask you why you would prefer not to speak about a particular subject in order to understand why you are choosing to avoid it.

  2. If the questions you are asked are not clear or seem irrelevant, you may ask for clarification. You should feel free to think about how you want to respond and take the time necessary to answer the question fully.

  3. If you are speaking about others you should discuss it first with them. It’s important to respect others' right to privacy. 


  1. When the interview finishes, you are welcome to raise questions or concerns about the interview or the oral history project. Know that you can restrict an interview from the public, make changes before it is shared, or withdraw your interview even after you have recorded your oral history interview.

  2. Fill out the submission form with the interviewer so we can receive all the proper information.

  3. It is normal to find yourself emotional and uncomfortable — do what you need to take care of yourself.



  1. Look at our interview questions and select the one you would like to focus on.

  2. Provide the Interviewee with the information outline above.

  3. Double check the recording set up above.

  4. Put both of your phones on silent.


  1. State the following at the beginning of the recording: Interviewer’s name, Participant’s name, the location where you are recording and the date.

  2. Try not to make too much noise. If there are papers, try not to rustle them. Try not to move around too much.

  3. Try not to talk over, interrupt or interject the participant when they are speaking. Give them pauses and time if necessary before moving onto the next question.

  4. Be fluid with your questions. We have created a list of interview questions that you can use as a guide. Listen to what the person is saying and ask follow up questions you are curious about and they could expand upon, even if they are not on the list of questions you’ve chosen.

  5. Try to avoid asking questions that have “yes” or “no” answers; instead, frame your questions as open-ended.


  1. Ask the interviewee how they felt about the interview and everything that was covered.

  2. Did anything come up that either the interviewee or interviewer will need support processing? Reach out to us if you need support finding resources.

  3. Fill out the submission form with the interviewer so we can receive all the proper information.

  4. It is normal to find yourself emotional and uncomfortable—do what you need to take care of yourself.