The Interviewee’s Story

I urge you to present your interview in a “story” format rather than a verbatim Q&A from the interview.  Use quotations to illustrate parts of the story. Because the interview will have covered much more than can be presented in the paper, you should extract the highlights of the interview.

Although you are telling a person’s story, remember to contextualize or explain historical events and other things which the reader may not be familiar with.  You may footnote these things or include them in text depending your presentation of the material.  For example, if they are talking about their experiences as bracerosindocumentados, sin papeles, etc. you would want to explain these concepts by telling us their historical significance.  Or if they are talking about fiestas, etc., tell us why they are important and explain what these fiestas are about within the context of your interview.  If they are talking about particular immigration laws, programs, explain what these were. Etc.

Sometimes you may have to ask your interviewee more questions about events, places, and people, after your interview so that you can make clear their story.  Remember that you must think about your reader who does not know who this person is.  You want to make sense of their experiences and convey it in a meaningful way.

Your Oral History should have the following attributes:

  • Introduction is concise, effective, original and appropriate — The who, what, when and where of the interview. The students should provide a summary of the focus of the interview, a description of the perspective of the interviewee, the location of the interview and a lead or ‘hook’ into the content of the interview.  The important thing is that even if you are telling “their” story, it should be organized around a theme or idea that is spelled out in the introduction.  All stories have theses around which they are framed.
  • Transcript should reflect non-judgment on the part of interviewee, respect for interviewee, and interviewee’s engagement with question (i.e. their thoughts, perspectives, stories)
  • Significant editing is demonstrated between text and transcript:
    • text retains strong voice of interviewee
    • text focuses on topic; doesn’t ramble
    • text details as well as concrete details
    • text meets guidelines
    • writing is flawless; no typos, spelling, mechanical, grammar errors
  • Appendix reflects engagement with oral history and course content — Please describe what you learned from the oral history. Address observations made and new perspectives learned.  You might address how what you learned complements or differs from what you’ve learned through your readings.